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Lennon dedicates Scottish Cup win to Celtic board’s backing

Glasgow (AFP) – Neil Lennon thanked the Celtic board for giving him the chance to become the first man to win a treble of Scottish domestic trophies as a player and a manger after a dramatic penalty shootout win over Hearts on Saturday.

Celtic clinched a 12th consecutive domestic trophy with a 4-3 win on penalties after a 3-3 draw at an empty Hampden.

The troubles that have plagued Lennon’s men all season were in evidence as twice they failed to hold onto a lead against the Scottish Championship side.

But with the Scottish Cup resuming at the semi-final stage in October from last season, the Hoops were able to polish off a ‘quadruple treble’.

“It’s a very, very special moment for me. I’ve been here 20 years and I think I’ve become the first one to win it as a player and a manager,” said Lennon, who returned for a second spell in charge in February 2019 after Brendan Rodgers had won the first seven of the 12-trophy haul.

“I’m very grateful to people who have supported me along the way.”

Fans have protested outside Celtic Park in recent weeks calling for Lennon’s sacking as Celtic have fallen 16 points behind Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premiership, albeit with three games in hand, and crashed out of the League Cup, Champions League qualifying and Europa League with a string of embarrassing results.

But the club’s major shareholder Dermot Desmond and chief executive Peter Lawwell have resolutely backed Lennon.

“It’s a monumental achievement for the club,” added Lennon. “I’d like to dedicate it to Mr. Desmond, Peter and the board for their unwavering support over the last few weeks. And the players, they’ve been absolutely magnificent.”

Despite the celebrations, the performance will do little to convince the Celtic support they can reel Rangers back in to win a record 10th consecutive league title.

Ryan Christie’s brilliant strike and Odsonne Edouard’s penalty looked to have Celtic in complete command at half-time, but their defensive problems were exposed as Liam Boyce and Stephen Kingsley pulled Hearts level.

Substitute Leigh Griffiths put the holders ahead in extra-time but Josh Ginnelly made it 3-3, forcing a penalty shootout.

Celtic blinked first when Christie’s spot-kick was saved by former Celtic stopper Craig Gordon.

But Kingsley and Craig Wighton were both denied by Conor Hazard on just his fourth appearance for the Scottish champions and Kristoffer Ajer made no mistake with the final spot-kick.

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