Happy ending was ‘perfect script’ for Lennon
Neil Lennon celebrates Celtic’s late winner at Tynecastle (pic: SNS Group)
Celtic maintained their eight-point lead over Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premiership but left it late to beat 10-man Hearts in Neil Lennon’s first game back in charge.
The champions showed there is life after Brendan Rodgers, though they had to rely on a last-minute winner from Edsonne Edouard to claim victory.
The Jambos were unfortunate not to take something from the game after an excellent second-half during which they coped admirably without the services of Jamie Brandon who was dismissed on the stroke of half-time.
The youngster could have few complaints after leading with a high elbow as he challenged Jeremy Toljan for a high ball.
The visitors opened the scoring against the run of play when James Forrest finished off a superb counter-attack involving Scott Sinclair and Oliver Burke.
Hearts pulled themselves level from the spot when Oliver Bozanic converted a penalty shortly after the restart.
The hosts proceeded to put in a power of work to repel everything Celtic could throw at them.
Up until the final minute of stoppage time, that is, when Edouard lost his marker to volley home Scott Brown’s lobbed pass over the Hearts defence.
“It was a great feeling, a great moment and a nice way to win the game,” said Lennon after the dramatic finish to his first game in charge having been appointed manager until the end of the season.
“We made hard work of it. We made it a lot more uncomfortable than it should’ve been. It was a sloppy goal to give away. Against 10 men, you’ve got good control of the game but our final ball, at times, was poor.
“But that happens sometimes when teams sit in and make life difficult for you.
“I couldn’t have written the script any better.
“I thought we scored a great first goal. We were a bit fortunate because I thought we sometimes overplayed a little bit too much, and in the second half we were a bit too passive with our passing.
“However, it was magnificent win. It’s such a hard place to come and I’ve got to give Hearts credit because they made the game very difficult for us.”
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard, meanwhile, wasn’t happy with his team despite a comfortable win over Dundee at Ibrox.
The Gers boss saw his team race into a 3-0 lead in the first half but then accused his players of dropping their standards in the second period.
“We get to half-time very comfortable and I asked the players for the same standards, the same energy and the same quality and it just wasn’t there,” he said.
“I didn’t really recognise us in the second half, individually or collectively.”
Third-placed Aberdeen suffered a shock 2-0 home defeat to Hamilton Accies, while 10-man Hibs closed the gap on city rivals Hearts to just three points with a hard-fought win at St Johnstone.
The match at Rugby Park between Kilmarnock and Motherwell was abandoned after 46 minutes due to fog.
Scores: Aberdeen 0 Hamilton 2, Rangers 4 Dundee 0, St Johnstone 1 Hibs 2, Hearts 1 Celtic 2, Kilmarnock A Motherwell A.