Injury time goal sinks Hearts as Neil Lennon returns to Celtic with crucial win
Hearts 1 Celtic 2
Neil Lennon began his second stint as Celtic boss with a dramatic last-gasp 2-1 Ladbrokes Premiership win over Hearts at Tynecastle.
The former Hoops captain and manager, back in charge until the end of the season following the shock departure of Brendan Rodgers for Leicester on Tuesday, watched winger James Forrest open the scoring in the 36th minute with a swift counter-attack goal.
Jambos defender Jamie Brandon was shown a straight red by referee Steven McLean just before the break for his robust challenge on Parkhead right-back Jeremy Toljan but the home side levelled in the 56th minute with a penalty from half-time substitute Oliver Bozanic.
The 10-man home side battled through the second half to hold off intense Celtic pressure only to succumb to an added-time winner by substitute Odsonne Edouard to keep them eight points clear of Rangers at the top of the table.
Lennon was reinstated on Tuesday but his assistant, John Kennedy, had prepared the players and the team had skipper Scott Brown back from suspension, in for injured Ryan Christie, and Oliver Burke in for Edouard while Brandon and Marcus Godinho returned for the home side.
Lennon's last visit to Tynecastle was in October as Hibernian boss and it saw him struck with a coin during a feisty Edinburgh derby.
The start to his return to Gorgie was no less frenetic.
In the 12th minute Hearts midfielder Olly Lee's 30-yard drive was clutched confidently by Hoops keeper Scott Bain before Brown's 25-yard effort much more powerful effort from 25 yards at the other end was beaten away by Gorgie keeper Zdenek Zlamal.
The Jambos enjoyed a spell of pressure amid a deafening din.
Sean Clare's volley from inside the box was heading for the bottom corner before Bain tipped it wide with striker Uche Ikpeazu heading over from the corner
Gorgie attacker Steven Naismith then robbed Celtic defender Dedryck Boyata outside the Parkhead side's penalty area but dragged his shot wide.
The visitors were more clinical when they got their chance.
With the Hearts defence stretched, winger Scott Sinclair raced on to Ewan Henderson's pass, nudged the ball on to Burke and when he drew Zlamal and moved it on to Forrest, he tapped into an empty net.
When Brandon, making his first start in 14 months, was shown a straight red card for leading with his arm in an aerial challenge with Toljan, the home side faced an arduous second half, which could have been more daunting had Zlamal not made a fine save from Burke's deflected drive.
Naismith was replaced by Bozanic for the start of the second half and when Ajer tripped Arnaud Djoum inside the box the Australian sent Bain the wrong way with his penalty.
Edouard replaced Henderson just on the hour mark and blazed a drive over the bar as the champions began to assert themselves.
Toljan fired wide from the edge of the box and Celtic continued to drive towards the Hearts goal and the tiring home side held firm only for Edouard, in the second of four added minutes, to nip in and hit a Brown chip into the net.
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