Neil Lennon: How it All Went Pete Tong – Ibrox where the Gods of Football turned against Celtic

Scottish Premiership, 2 January 2021. theRangers 1-0 Celtic – For the second Glasgow Derby in a row the home team failed to get a shot on target, yet Celtic somehow contrived to lose this must win game when a rare corner kick for the visitors – after Celtic had somewhat unfortunately been reduced to ten men after Nir Bitton gave Bobby Madden a decision to make with his silly pull back on Alfredo Morelos, Callum McGregor deflected into his own net. There was no way back for Neil Lennon’s side after those two incidents in a match that Celtic had dominated. Result opened up a 19-point gap for theRangers with Celtic having three games in hand. Tough but not impossible, then there was the Dubai.

Afterwards Neil Lennon had this to say:

“You can’t just say it’s over, because there is still a lot of football to be played. We have to be a lot more consistent in the second half of the season than we have been in the first half. It may be a pivotal moment – I can’t predict what is going to happen – but we have to keep playing like that, keep being consistent, keep winning games and apply as much pressure as we possibly can.

“They were outstanding today and we made them (theRangers) look very ordinary today. We were by far superior and just needed the finishing touch really. We thought it would come the longer the game goes on, they would tire.”

David Potter’s View: Madden is Madden, and Bitton and Celtic really should know that

It is simply not going to happen this year, and it all perished with Nir Bitton’s moment of silliness. It was a foul and possibly even a yellow, but no-one is ever likely to convince me or anyone else of the Celtic persuasion that Morelos was in anything like a goal scoring position.

But Bobby Madden is Bobby Madden, and Nir Bitton and Celtic really should know that. What was even more culpable was the folding and giving up in the latter part of the game, after a desperately unlucky own goal. One felt that the Gods of football had turned against Celtic at that point. Celtic’s players and management seemed to feel that as well.

Neil Lennon is to be blamed for his substitutions, not so much in who he put on, but in who he took off. Griffiths and Turnbull should have been on at the death. Things might have been different otherwise.

Good goalkeeping? Perhaps, but we should have done better, and it is a truism that you have to score when you are on top. Just a shame that we decided to feel sorry for ourselves after the two hammer blows, because sooner or later we would have beaten him. And as always, the best goalkeeper is usually the luckiest.

Photo: Andrew Milligan

Bobby Madden? Well, I leave it to others to express themselves more volubly, but the big error was the failure to take strong action against Morelos in the first five minutes. Compare and contrast Alfredo Morelos’ and Nir Bitton’s moments of madness. Which one was more likely to injure a man? To his credit, Ally McCoist was very fair about things, but Kris Boyd tried to hide behind “that’s just the way he is” sort of nonsense! No, it won’t do, Kris!

And so the League has gone. We would need to win 19 games and Rangers would have to get beaten by two other clubs – and frankly, much as I would like to kid myself on about Aberdeen and Hibs, it is simply not going to happen. All that remains is to see if Celtic can muster enough resources to won our 41st Scottish Cup in May.

The annoying thing is that Celtic did not play at all badly. Kristoffer Ajer was outstandingly good, and there was no-one that I felt was unworthy of a Celtic jersey. But sadly, the anti-Neil Lennon feelings will rise again. But I feel that the greater danger now is the trip to Dubai. In these circumstances, it is difficult, in these circumstances, not to imagine schisms and arguments developing. It might be an idea to use the Covid argument and stay at home.

David Potter

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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