Utopia for Lennon after hell of Europe
Hearts 0 Celtic 7
Neil Lennon celebrated his 200th game in charge of Celtic with a victory that takes its place in the record books as Hearts were crushed on their own turf in a Scottish Cup tie in which the Parkhead side rebounded emphatically from the disappointment of their midweek Champions League exit against AC Milan.
This was the greatest winning margin between these sides, surpassing Celtic's 6-0 victory in the old Scottish Premier Division in January 1982.
"It was sheer utopia," Lennon said of his team's exploits. "That was the best performance I've ever been involved in at Celtic, either as player or as manager – I can't remember being 5-0 ahead at half-time before."
What was – from Hearts' point of view – an ominous procession, began after only two minutes when Kris Commons scored the first of his three goals. By the end, Scott Brown had contributed a double and Joe Ledley and Mikael Lustig one apiece as Celtic responded to Lennon's lament that they had been ineffective in front of goal against Milan.
They remedied that deficiency by scoring with seven of their 11 attempts on target.
Commons was the principal beneficiary of non-existent marking, first when he accepted a prompt from Ledley, to shoot from the left into the far corner of the net, and then when he popped up on the opposite side to fasten on to Mikael Lustig's swiftly taken free-kick. The Hearts players watched as though mesmerised.
The second half brought no relief and Danny Wilson was judged to have handled inside the box. Commons converted the penalty with brio.
Brown, who had missed the visit of Milan through suspension, seemed determined to compensate by displaying a voracious appetite for possession and his half-volley completed Celtic's afternoon.
The only mystery was that Anthony Stokes had not got on the scoresheet.
"That's the way I want them to play," said Lennon. "It was everything I could have asked for. The passing, the crispness of their passing, was in evidence. I wanted a reaction from Tuesday night. There is no shame in going out of the Champions League.
"It has been a fantastic day against the background of what has been a difficult weekend for the city. I am not expecting them to play like that every week but it shows what we have been pushing for." (© Daily Telegraph, London)