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Lennon proud as Celtic finish the job
Published : 21 Apr 2013 15:47:06Rss feed
Celtic clinched their second successive Scottish Premier League championship after a clinical second half display sealed a 4-1 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Parkhead.
Before the match Hoops boss Neil Lennon, who was starting a three-match touchline ban, had demanded his players win the title in style.
However, Lennon was frustrated early on as his side, who only needed a point to secure the title, squandered a number of early chances.
The Celtic fans had to wait until the 61st minute to get the party started when a fine strike from Gary Hooper opened the scoring.
Stand-in skipper Joe Ledley fired home a second five minutes later before Hooper got his 28th goal of the season with a clever back-flick in the 73rd minute.
Substitute Georgios Samaras added a fourth in the 88th minute and Aaron Doran pulled one back for Inverness in stoppage time as Celtic moved 15 points clear of Motherwell with four matches remaining to land their 44th title.
However, the Hoops didn't have it all their own way with the Glasgow giants having lost six and drawn six so far and are set to secure their lowest ever points tally in Lennon's three full seasons in charge.
Yet the manager's overwhelming emotion was one of pride.
"I'm proud of the players for the way they've played this season. The second half was indicative of the way that we've played in the three years I've been in charge," said Lennon, who could lead his side to a domestic double if they overcome Hibernian in next month's Scottish Cup final.
"It's pretty special and I never take these things for granted. I know from my own personal experiences over the years that winning the championship is the ultimate goal for any professional in football and I hope that my players enjoy the moment."
Inverness coach Terry Butcher said Celtic had been worthy champions.
"It's hard to stop Celtic when they are in that mood and have a sniff of the title," he said.
"We gave some poor goals away and Celtic could have scored more. They are worthy champions without a doubt."
The Hoops had the ball in the net in the 34th minute when Anthony Stokes rounded Reguero and rolled the ball home but his effort was ruled out for a tight offside decision.
Inverness came close to taking a shock lead in the 38th minute when Owain Tudor-Jones glanced a header from Graeme Shinnie's corner just wide in a congested Celtic box.
The Hoops finally made the breakthrough courtesy of Hooper. Commons played the ball in between two Inverness defenders to Hooper, who took a couple of touches before lashing home a angled strike through the legs of Graeme Shinnie and into the bottom right-hand corner.
Ledley made it 2-0 five minutes later. Mikel Lustig charged down the right and his low cross found Ledley in space and he took a touch before firing home.
Hooper added another in the 73rd minute. Commons beat his man and drilled a cross in from the left that Hooper cleverly flicked past Reguero with his heel.
Substitute Samaras added a fourth when he raced down the left and cut into the box before lashing home an unstoppable left-foot strike in off the crossbar before Doran pulled one back in stoppage time for Inverness.
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