Scottish League Cup
Celtic blast fans as players left ‘shaken’ by protest
Strain game: Neil Lennon’s under pressure (pic: SNS Group)
Celtic 0 Ross County 2
The faith which the Celtic board has in Neil Lennon will be tested to the full after the club’s first cup loss in 36 games sparked protests outside Parkhead which saw players pelted by missiles from fans.
In the wake of the midweek Europa League exit, the Parkhead boss insisted he had the “full support” of major shareholder Dermot Desmond and chief executive Peter Lawwell.
However, Lennon must be worried that stance will change in the wake of a miserable result against the Highlanders – their first victory at Celtic Park in 13 attempts.
Irate supporters gathered outside the stadium after the cup loss calling for change, with police involved in some ugly scenes which left two officers with minor injuries.
Celtic condemned the actions of their supporters, saying: “The club will be investigating these events fully.
“For players and a management team, who have given so much in recent years and have delivered 11 consecutive trophies, to require an escort from Celtic Park while being targeted with missiles, is simply unacceptable.
“While we understand that only a small number of people were involved in this behaviour some of the actions this evening, which have obviously left our own players shaken, cannot be condoned in any way.”
With Glasgow currently under tier 4 Covid restrictions, protest gatherings are banned and Supt. Stevie Dolan of Police Scotland said: “We strongly condemn these actions and remind fans that enforcement options remain at our disposal.
“We would urge people to find alternative ways to protest to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”
With Celtic managing just two wins from their last ten games in all competitions, the statistics tell their own story.
Add to that questionable recruitment and so many players underperforming, and the case against the manager is a tough one to defend.
Anger: Fans outside Celtic Park (pic: SNS Group)
“If you keep losing games, there is an expectation at this club, there’s a demand for excellence and there’s a demand for wins – I am fully aware of that,” he said.
“I am not standing here like the happy clapper saying everything’s okay, because it’s not. But we’ll do everything we can, if I’ve still got the opportunity to do that, to turn things around.
“Today’s result wouldn’t have helped, put it that way.”
County thoroughly deserved the win to progress to the quarter-finals, goals in each half from Ross Stewart (penalty) and Alex Iacovitti completed the famous victory which broke Celtic’s dominance of domestic silverware.
The Glasgow side had won every trophy since 2017 but have now suffered four successive home defeats for the first time since 1958.
“We have lost one trophy, that’s gone,” added Lennon. “Our priority is the league, it always is, every time we come into a season.
“We are out of Europe, so it’s not been great, but there’s plenty of time to turn it around. But it’s alright me saying that, we have to show it with action now.”
Celtic’s bid for an historic 10th league title in a row is also under threat, with arch rivals Rangers 11 points ahead having played two games more.
Gerrard begins to dream
On the other side of Glasgow, Steven Gerrard moved a step closer to his first trophy as Rangers manager.
The Ibrox club eased past League One side Falkirk with a 4-0 win and will face St Mirren in the last eight of the Scottish League Cup.
Goals from Jermain Defoe, Calvin Bassey’s first for the club, Borna Barisic gave Rangers a commanding half-time lead. James Tavernier confirmed victory in the second period.
Rangers are now unbeaten in their past 21 matches and as league leaders and now favourites for the League Cup Gerrard could be looking at retrieving two of the three big prizes from their rivals.
Quarter-final draw: Alloa v Hibs, Dunfermline v St Johnstone, Livingston v Ross County, St Mirren v Rangers.