Saturday 24 August 2019

Lennon hails 'purposeful' Hoops as Rangers rely on late winner

Lennon: Delighted with start. Photo: Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters
Lennon: Delighted with start. Photo: Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters

Gavin McCafferty

Celtic manager Neil Lennon was delighted to see his team's hunger for goals as they began the Premiership season with a 7-0 thrashing of St Johnstone.

The champions recorded their biggest win since an identical scoreline against Motherwell in Ronny Deila's final match in charge in May 2016. Ryan Christie set up Mikey Johnston for a ninth-minute opener before scoring a hat-trick and Odsonne Edouard and substitutes Olivier Ntcham and Leigh Griffiths completed the rout.

Celtic had only scored more than two goals on one occasion between the time Lennon took over from Brendan Rodgers in late February and the end of last season, and he had spoken about his desire to see them play with more attacking intent.

Lennon said: "I think there are more goals in them. There's a belief when they play like that, take their chances and shoot and create. We weren't tippy-tappy, we were far more purposeful against a team who can be dogged and difficult to break down.

"What pleased me more than anything is we got a good early goal and built on it, we didn't take our foot off the pedal. You are always looking for more but if we can get the wee man (Griffiths) up to speed, what an asset he is going to be.

"There's goals from Odsonne, goals from (James) Forrest, goals from (Scott) Sinclair and (Callum) McGregor and that pleases me.

"We look a threat at set-plays. So we are not just one-dimensional at the minute. I like the variation in the way we play."

Yesterday, Rangers also got off to a winning start but it was in far less convincing fashion and Steven Gerrard admits he was relieved to see the last-gasp luck go in Rangers' favour as they avoided an opening day slip-up against Kilmarnock.

Gerrard claimed this week his side would have walked away with the Premiership title last term had games lasted only 86 minutes after seeing his side slip up late against Aberdeen, Motherwell, Hibernian, Celtic and yesterday's opponents.

But he was relieved to see his team keep their focus for the regulation 90 at Rugby Park as Connor Goldson pounced in the final seconds to snatch a 2-1 win. He said: "We did concede too many goals in the final stages of games (last season). I remember in the first couple of away fixtures we lost one late on at Aberdeen and then conceded a late set-piece at Motherwell.

"I understand that happens from time to time but if it happens too often you need to learn from it.

"This time it has gone our way and I'm pleased with the outcome. I thought it would have been cruel if we hadn't come away with maximum points. Kilmarnock took 10 points from us last season so it was important to come here and win, whatever way we did it.

"Sometimes you have to show a different side. Sometimes it is not all pretty and nice. Sometimes you just have to get over the line."

Irish Independent

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