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My Bhoys are raring to go for Lazio test, says Lennon

Celtic 5 Hibernian 2

Show stealer: Neil Lennon congratulates Mohamed Elyounoussi on a fine display at Hampden
Show stealer: Neil Lennon congratulates Mohamed Elyounoussi on a fine display at Hampden

By Ronnie Esplin

Neil Lennon believes Saturday's comprehensive 5-2 Betfred Cup semi-final win over Hibernian has left Celtic in good shape for facing Lazio on Thursday.

Attacker Mohamed Elyounoussi and skipper Scott Brown, who passed a late fitness test, both bagged a brace at Hampden Park with midfielder Callum McGregor also on the scoresheet.

Midfielder Melker Hallberg and half-time substitute Florian Kamberi netted for the Easter Road side but to no avail as the treble treble champions clinched their 30th successive domestic cup tie win.

The Scottish kingpins now turn their attention to the Europa League and the return game against Lazio on Thursday night, after beating the Italian giants 2-1 at Celtic Park last month.

The Hoops are top of Group E with seven points from three fixtures and the Hoops boss believes they could garner more in Italy.

"It is fantastic," said Lennon, who revealed left-back Boli Bolingoli came off at half-time with a hamstring problem which could leave him a doubt for European action.

"What a game to look forward to. We know what a huge incentive there is to go there and get a result.

"Off the back of Saturday, psychologically, the feel-good factor, the players will be in a good place.

"They will all be wanting to play because when you are playing well and scoring goals and playing the kind of football they are producing you just want to keep going.

"You don't want to train, you just want to get out there and play again.

"It is a titanic game in front of us, we know the calibre of opposition we have got on Thursday night but it is not beyond them."

Lennon paid tribute to former Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers for setting the standards which have seen the Bhoys so successful in cup ties over the last three seasons, where an unprecedented domestic treble treble was achieved.

The former Celtic captain, who took over from Rodgers last February when the former moved to Leicester, said: "They are under scrutiny at the minute, people want to see this run end but their pride won't let that happen.

"One day it will go but they are relentless in their pursuit of trophies at the minute.

"I don't know where it ranks in British football in terms of records but it is amazing because anything can happen on any given day.

"I've had bad days as a player and manager but Brendan has put this mentality in place and we are trying to carry on.

"The players just don't want to give it up.

"Everyone is coming for them and we want to stand there toe-to-toe and keep going."

Lennon had said Brown would struggle to shrug off a knock picked up in the midweek win over St Mirren at Parkhead.

However, the veteran midfielder was in his usual inspiring form for the Hoops but played down his two-goal contribution as he looked forward to taking on the Serie A outfit.

The 34-year-old said: "It has been a while since I scored two goals, I was told 2014.

"It was nice to get a couple of goals but it is not about scoring the goals, it is about getting to a cup final.

"Everyone is looking forward to Rome. We are in a good place now, we have been scoring goals, we have been defending well. So we need to make sure we maintain that."

Hibs manager Paul Heckingbottom claimed his side were architects of their own downfall, especially in the first-half.

He said: "When you go 2-0 down to Celtic in that sort of form, it is a real uphill battle.

"I thought they were very good but we played our part helping them, especially in the first half.

"We kept giving them the ball.

"Some of it was them, their pressure and tempo, definitely, but we had probably twice as many positions as we had when we played them at Easter Road but just kept giving the ball away and that was the problem first-half.

"Our focus is on the league but today was separate. I saw more than enough to know we can change things."

 

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