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Lennon gets his hands on the prize at last
Published : 21 May 2011 18:29:25
What a debut season for Neil Lernnon. All the emotions possible have been experienced by the man in charge at Parkhead. Let's hope he enjoys tonight Neil Lennon can reflect on picking up his first trophy as Celtic manager with a comfortable Scottish Cup final win over Motherwell at Hampden. Ki Sung-yueng opened the scoring in the 32nd minute with a wonderful drive and Mark Wilson's shot in the 75th minute, which deflected off Well skipper Stephen Craigan, put the Parkhead men into an unassailable lead. Charlie Mulgrew's wonderful free-kick with two minutes left of regulation time brought an even more positive end to the Irishman's first season as permanent boss - which, to say the least, has been interesting. A light aircraft, presumably hired by Celtic supporters, flew over Hampden at the start of the game trailing a banner with the words 'In Lennon We Trust', and that trust was repaid as his side never really looked like slipping up against a Motherwell team who found it all too much. The start of the game joined the whole crowd for a minute's applause as tribute to the late Phil O'Donnell, who played for both clubs, and former SFA secretary Ernie Walker, who passed this week. Lennon and Well manager Stuart McCall led their teams out for their first finals as managers but ran back up the tunnel following the pre-match formalities to get into their tracksuits to watch a scrappy first half punctuated by a couple of strange decisions by referee Calum Murray and lit up by Ki's goal. With just over a minute gone Parkhead striker Gary Hooper knocked Kris Commons' cross on to the bar but the flag was up for offside. But until Ki scored half an hour later, there was little action of note aside from bookings. The ball zipped around the rain-soaked pitch as the game was played in a constant drizzle making it difficult for the players, defenders especially. Evidence of this was, in the 10th minute, Celtic's Daniel Majstorovic was booked by referee Murray for a foul on John Sutton. However, five minutes later, with the game still settling down, Fir Park midfielder Keith Lasley was lucky only to see yellow for a high challenge on Celtic defender Glenn Loovens which owed nothing to the conditions. Captain Scott Brown was also shown a yellow card for a tackle on Steven Hammell, before Ki also found himself in the book on the half-hour mark for a challenge on Lasley. After that flurry of yellow card activity the South Korean made a much more positive mark on the game when he picked up a Commons pass 30 yards from goal and drilled a wonderful shot past the helpless Darren Randolph in the Motherwell goal. Lennon turned to the Celtic fans and repeatedly punched the air in celebration after all the tension of the season seemed to ease from his shoulders. By this point Fraser Forster had barely touched the ball but, as Motherwell shook themselves out of their slumber, the Celtic keeper was glad of the help of the crossbar when Gavin Gunning's shot from 25 yards off smacked off it and away to safety. Majstorovic was lucky to stay on the pitch when he was penalised for handball. However, referee Calum Murray refused to reach for the second yellow card which would have seen the Swede taking an early bath. Motherwell had shouts for a penalty turned down in the 40th minute when Loovens appeared to nudge Sutton to the ground inside the box as he went for a cross from Humphrey. Referee Murray left his most contentious decision of the first half until last when he when he failed to penalise a prostrate Craigan for handling the ball at the edge of the penalty area as the Hoops threatened. He clesarly stretched for the ball and changed it's direction. The second half had more to report as they play was of a rather more fluid style. In the 56th minute, as the Lanarkshire side enjoyed a rare spell of pressure, Loovens did well to take a cross from Chris Humphrey away from the head of Sutton. Celtic broke quickly seconds later through Georgios Samaras, only for the Greece striker to be crowded out. Commons should have doubled Celtic's lead in the 66th minute when Brown sent him clear on goal but when the Scotland midfielder poked the ball past Randolph from 10 yards, backtracking Well defender Shaun Hutchinson was on hand to clear the ball off the line. Samaras was the first to be replaced with Anthony Stokes getting on the pitch only to be crunched by Craigan to earn the Motherwell defender a booking. The Cup was heading to Parkhead for sure when, 15 minutes from time, Commons set up Wilson and his low drive took a cruel deflection off Craigan sending Randolph the wrong way before the ball limped over the line. In the 88th minute, after Motherwell were punished for a foul on Hooper at the edge of the box, Mulgrew's left foot powered the free-kick high past the flailing Randolph to put the game to bed and leave the Celtic fans and Lennon and his management team celebrating.