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Saturday 17 August 2019

Edouard secures treble treble for Celtic

Hearts 1 Celtic 2

Odsonne Edouard is congratulated by teammates after scoring Celtic’s winning goal against Hearts in yesterday’s Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park. Photo: PA
Odsonne Edouard is congratulated by teammates after scoring Celtic’s winning goal against Hearts in yesterday’s Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park. Photo: PA

Roddy Forsyth

The journey begun by Brendan Rodgers at Hampden Park in 2016 was completed by another Northern Irishman at the same venue yesterday, as Neil Lennon steered Celtic to a third successive clean sweep of the Scottish honours, an unprecedented treble treble.

In claiming the Scottish Cup for the 39th time, Celtic were not subtle but they were effective. And afterwards Lennon had double cause to celebrate when the interim manager was offered the Celtic job permanently.

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Celtic players celebrate winning the treble treble as they pose with the Scottish League cup, Scottish Cup and the Scottish Premiership trophy. Photo: Reuters
Celtic players celebrate winning the treble treble as they pose with the Scottish League cup, Scottish Cup and the Scottish Premiership trophy. Photo: Reuters

Hearts, despite much gloomy prognostication about their chances, pushed this contest all the way to the extent that Lennon's players were forced to exploit blatant time-wasting tactics to see themselves over the line.

Those who choose to diminish Celtic's accomplishment cite recent years as arguably the most uncompetitive period in Scottish football history.

However, this game rubbished the theory that all opponents will just roll over under Celtic pressure.

Ryan Edwards typified Hearts' defiance. The Australian was considered surplus to requirements at Tynecastle during the first half of the season when he was loaned to St Mirren, but he was allowed to return in January and repaid the decision by opening the scoring after 52 minutes.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon celebrates. Photo: PA
Celtic manager Neil Lennon celebrates. Photo: PA

Given Hearts' prominence in Scottish football, it was remarkable that these teams had not met in the final since 1956, when a crowd of 133,000 witnessed a 3-1 win for the Jam Tarts. A repeat was not considered likely by the bookmakers who had rated any Hearts success on this occasion at 17/2, a price pushed out by the absence of Steven Naismith and Olly Lee.

Both casualties of knee injuries, the pair were among the Hearts party who walked the pitch two hours before kick-off, Lee with the aid of crutches.

The very few Hearts fans who had gained entry by that stage were animated by the sight of the 16-year-old Aaron Hickey, a veteran of two appearances, his second coming in last week's 2-1 league defeat at Parkhead.

Hickey became the youngest player to appear in a Scottish Cup final when he appeared at left-back, where he turned out to be a contender for man of the match. It was his cool play that helped set up the opener as he checked inside on his right foot to find Arnaud Djoum, whose miskick shuttled the ball on to Sean Clare.

Hearts' Steven MacLean in action with Celtic's Kristoffer Ajer. Photo: Reuters
Hearts' Steven MacLean in action with Celtic's Kristoffer Ajer. Photo: Reuters

When Clare's back-heeled pass rolled into Edwards' path, the midfielder nutmegged Scott Bain to find the net in front of the euphoric Hearts support. Celtic, having been one-paced and unimaginative, now faced a tangible threat to their historic ambition.

Once again, though, they reached deep into their reserves to impose themselves on stubborn opponents. They were helped by Zdenek Zlamal's rash decision to challenge Odsonne Edouard inside the box and concede a needless penalty kick when Christophe Berra was on hand to cover the danger.

Edouard converted the kick ably, although Zlamal got a touch to the ball, and Celtic's record signing took his goals tally for the season to 23 with the decisive intervention in the 82nd minute. Again, he was aided by defensive error, this time when John Souttar allowed the Frenchman to peel off him and fasten onto a long, headed clearance from Mikael Lustig. Edouard's finish was precise and lethal and Zlamal felt the draught of it as it lanced past his ear.

Lennon, meanwhile, celebrated extravagantly. He had further cause to celebrate afterwards when he was offered the job of Celtic manager for the second time, his period as interim boss having been so effective.

Celtic's Mikey Johnston and Hearts' Michael Smith challenge for the ball. Photo: Reuters
Celtic's Mikey Johnston and Hearts' Michael Smith challenge for the ball. Photo: Reuters

Peter Lawwell, Celtic's chief executive, confirmed the appointment when he said: "Neil, in our moment of need, stood up to the plate. Over the next few days, we will work out the details. Fantastic day, fantastic achievement today, probably never to be repeated. He's done a fantastic job in difficult circumstances.

"He's a Celtic man, he's made for Celtic. He knows Glasgow, he knows the city, he knows what's required and he's a winner. At this point in terms of looking at the squad, there's nobody better that I've worked with who's got a better eye for a player.

"I think it's better to do that [offer him the job] tonight to just kill the speculation."

Telegraph

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