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Lennon delighted with perfect tribute to McNeill

Celtic 1 Kilmarnock 0

Proud: Celtic’s goalscorer Jozo Simunovic celebrates
Proud: Celtic’s goalscorer Jozo Simunovic celebrates

By Ronnie Esplin

Neil Lennon felt Jozo Simunovic's header against Kilmarnock was the "perfect way" to win a game as Celtic Park honoured Billy McNeill.

An emotional day, following the death of the man who captained the side that won the European Cup in 1967 and later went on to manage the club, did not quite go to plan for over an hour.

However, Simunovic, wearing the number five so closely associated with McNeill, headed in for his first goal of the season after 67 minutes to give the hosts a 1-0 Ladbrokes Premiership win and take them to within a point of their eighth successive title.

Interim boss Lennon, who along with skipper Scott Brown had laid a wreath at McNeill's statue outside the stadium before the game, said: "That was a perfect way to win the game I suppose under the circumstances, with everything that's happened this week and today.

"The big man might have been looking down on us when we needed a goal.

"I'm pleased with the win, pleased with the second half and it's a great three points.

"Kilmarnock created opportunities with us being sloppy. We were ill-disciplined defensively, not just the back four, but the midfield as well. We wanted that tidied up in the second half.

"It was lot better and we showed more attacking intent."

Simunovic said he was "very proud" to play his part after he had joined his team mates and McNeill's family at the statue ceremony before the game.

He said: "It was very special, very emotional.

"I couldn't imagine the scenes when we came here before the game, so many people outside, his family as well.

"An amazing feeling, an amazing guy for Celtic. A big, big guy for the club, for the history of Celtic. I'm just proud, very proud."

Killie boss Steve Clarke "definitely" thought his side deserved more from the game and thought the Ayrshire side should have been awarded a penalty when Celtic midfielder Brown tangled with Stephen O'Donnell.

Clarke said: "It was a terrific effort, good application. We had the best chance of the first half, we had good opportunities, a penalty.

"As he goes to play the ball he gets pushed in the back. Soft, but a penalty, but there you go."

Belfast Telegraph


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