Skip to main content

Celtic getting back towards their best, claims Neil Lennon

Celtic v Aberdeen – William Hill Scottish Cup – Semi Final – Hampden Park
(Image credit: Andrew Milligan)

Neil Lennon insists Celtic took another step towards their top form with a controlled 2-0 William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final win over Aberdeen at Hampden Park.

The Dons had taken a point in a 3-3 Premiership draw between the teams at Pittodrie last Sunday, and after defeats to Rangers and AC Milan, the Hoops boss and his players came in for some criticism.

Celtic fought out a creditable 2-2 Europa League draw with Lille in France on Thursday night and against the Dons first-half goals from Ryan Christie and Mohamed Elyounoussi set up a final meeting with Hearts on December 20.

The Parkhead manager, whose side are looking for a unprecedented fourth consecutive Scottish Cup final victory, said: “It was fantastic to be in another cup final and follow on from a great performance in France, on a really heavy pitch.

“I thought we were very comfortable and were outstanding in the first half.

“As expected, the players tired in the second half and we had to change the shape and change the  personnel but we saw the game out comfortably and it’s another cup final.

“I’m sure there was a lot of expectation and pressure on them but they didn’t show any of it and handled the occasion very well.

“We’ve had a heavy volume of games and they’ve come through it on the other side now.

“I’m not saying everything is going to be plain sailing from here on in but we’re starting to show real form again.

“We’re still not where I want us to be but we’re getting there. The games take it out of them so we have to rest and recover.

“We’re missing the wide men (James Forrest and Mikey Johnston) to take the brunt off Moi (Elyounoussi) and Ryan.

“The boys who are playing are playing very well and improving all the time so we’re not a million miles from where I want us to be.”

Lennon watched Championship side Hearts beat Edinburgh rivals Hibs 2-1 after extra-time on Saturday with Craig Gordon, who left Parkhead in the summer to return to Tynecastle for a second time, in top form.

The Northern Irishman said: “It’s a fantastic result for Hearts under the circumstances.

“They have Premiership quality and a goalkeeper who we know very well and who pulled off a couple of fantastic saves.

“It’s a cup final that we’re very much looking forward to.”

Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes claims his side were “spooked” by the play of Celtic’s attack for a period in the first half.

He said: “We lined up with a really attacking team, we have had a lot of benefit from that and we wanted to strike that first blow.

“Matty Kennedy carried the fight with some great crosses and Sam Cosgrove missed a couple of chances at the back post, if he had the benefit of a few games he might have made more of them.

“Ryan Hedges had a chance when through and we tried to get to their back lot but the trade off with so  many attacking players in the team is that you have to deal with the threat of Elyounoussi, (Tom) Rogic, Christie and (Odsonne) Edouard and probably for a 10 to 15-minute spell we never quite managed that.

“Their movement spooked us a wee bit more than it did last week and I think Edouard is a big part of that. I don’t think we quite dealt with that.”