Lennon wants cup to keep season 'competitive'
St Mirren 1 Celtic 2:Neil Lennon admits Celtic’s 2-1 win over St Mirren in Paisley yesterday was required to keep their season “competitive”.
The Parkhead men are 16 points clear of Motherwell at the top of the Scottish Premier League with almost no chance of them being caught.
Conversely, Celtic’s Champions League hopes appear to be over as they travel to Italy on Tuesday for the second leg of their last-16 clash with Juventus the following night, looking to recover a 3-0 deficit from the first-leg but odds-on to exit the tournament.
With those two scenarios in mind, Lennon was pleased to see his side take one step closer to taking part in a showpiece Hampden final at the end of the season.
He said: “There were some great performances yesterday. Psychologically, it gives us a huge lift going into Wednesday and it keep our season competitive as well. If we had lost that would have been the season over competitively and I want them to keep going, I don’t want this season to fritter out.
All guns blazing
“So we have kept it very much alive. We have a semi-final to look forward to, we have a championship to win and a big game on Wednesday, so it’s all guns blazing.
“First of all it is Juventus, then we will prioritise the league and then we will see where we go from there.”
The champions responded well following last week’s 2-1 SPL defeat against Motherwell at Fir Park which had enraged Lennon.
Stand-in skipper Joe Ledley opened the scoring in the fifth-minute with a header from a James Forrest cross before a mistake by Parkhead left-back Emilio Izaguirre in the 13th minute allowed Buddies striker Esmael Goncalves to level.
However, Republic of Ireland international striker Anthony Stokes restored Celtic’s lead in the 21st minute with a close-range header to ultimately book the visitors a place in tomorrow’s draw at Hampden.
The home side played their part in what was at times a frenetic encounter but never really looked like replicating their League Cup semi-final win over the Hoops in January.