Scottish Cup Final
Lennon devotes historic win to supportive board
History: Celtic celebrate (pic: SNS Group)
Celtic 3 Hearts 3 (aet)
Celtic won 4-3 on penalties
Celtic manager Neil Lennon dedicated the historic quadruple treble to his bosses who refused to bow to fan pressure and sack him amid a recent poor run of form.
Furious supporters had called for the board to axe Lennon after Celtic, chasing a record-breaking 10 titles in a row, fell a long way behind Rangers at the top of the Premiership.
However, majority shareholder Dermot Desmond refused to press the panic button, instead giving his manager until January to turn things around.
Since the vote of confidence, Lennon has overseen three domestic wins, this latest one in the Covid-delayed 2019/20 Scottish Cup Final, delivering an unprecedented 12th trophy win in a row.
With Kristoffer Ajer’s decisive spot-kick in the shoot-out, under-pressure boss Neil Lennon also became the first person to win a treble both as a player and manager at Celtic.
“It’s a very special moment for me on a personal basis,” he said. “I’ve been here 20 years and I think I’m the first person to do it (win the treble) as a manager and a player.
“I’m in a unique band of one and I’m very proud, but I’m very grateful to the people who supported me and helped me achieve this along the way, especially the players.
“It’s a monumental achievement. I would like to dedicate it to Mr Desmond, Peter (Lawwell) and the board for their unwavering support over the last few months, it’s been a difficult time, and the players, they’ve been absolutely magnificent.”
The record books will show yet another victory in a final for Celtic but won’t show how close Hearts came to ripping up the script.
Trophies aren’t easy to win, that’s 12 in a row and you’ll never see that again” – Neil Lennon.
Seemingly out of it at half-time trailing 2-0, Robbie Neilson’s men stormed back in the second half to level things, and even carved out chances to win their ninth Scottish Cup before the match moved into extra time.
Substitute Leigh Griffiths struck to put Celtic 3-2 up after 105 minutes only for the Jambos to come back yet again, this time Josh Ginnelly equalising six minutes later.
Young keeper Conor Hazard was the hero for Celtic in the shoot-out, saving Craig Wighton and Stephen Kingsley’s efforts in just his third start for the club.
Lennon may have an unmatched haul of silverware from his years of service to Celtic but he will be judged on his ability to reel in Rangers this season with 10-in-a-row uppermost in supporters’ minds.
He will not have long to dwell on the historic achievements with a visit to Ibrox looming on 2 January.
“I didn’t think we played poorly at all,” he added. “I thought it was a great cup final. I’m so pleased that we’ve won it. So pleased for the fans as well. It’s just an unbelievable achievement, incredible.
“The weight of all this expectation has gone. That’s 12 trophies in a row, we’re out of the League Cup, and now we can just focus on the league and cup again. Trophies aren’t easy to win, that’s 12 in a row and you’ll never see that again.”
Neilson, whose side sits top of the Championship and are hot favourites to clinch an immediate return to the top flight, said: “I thought we were absolutely outstanding. To come back in the second half and then recover in the second half of extra-time was phenomenal. It shows all these players are fighting for this club.
“It shows we can compete against one of the top teams in Scotland. It shows we should be coming to Hampden regularly.”
Goals: Celtic – Christie (19), Edouard (29), Griffiths (105); Hearts – Boyce (48), Kingsley (67), Ginnelly (111).