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Neil Lennon talks up 16-year-old debutant Karamoko Dembele as Celtic fans get a 'glimpse of the future'

Celtic 2 Hearts 1

Just champion: Celtic players and officials celebrate with the Premiership trophy at Parkhead yesterday
Just champion: Celtic players and officials celebrate with the Premiership trophy at Parkhead yesterday
Karamoko Dembele

By Ronnie Esplin

Neil Lennon believes Celtic fans were given a "glimpse of the future" when 16-year-old Karamoko Dembele made his debut in the 2-1 win over Hearts at Parkhead.

Dembele replaced the injured Oliver Burke for the second half, with the game at 1-1 after fringe player Mikey Johnston's early opener had been cancelled out by Jake Mulraney.

Dembele went through his repertoire of tricks to the delight of the home fans, although it was 20-year-old Johnston who drove in the winner, giving the Hoops the win which meant they finished the season nine points ahead of Rangers, before they were presented with the Ladbrokes Premiership trophy for the eighth successive season.

Interim boss Lennon said of Dembele's cameo: "He was great to watch. He is the type of player that you want at Celtic.

"He gets the crowd off their feet with their football intelligence.

"Everyone talks about the skill, but his football intelligence was very good.

"I was delighted for him, Obviously we need to keep a lid on it, but it's great that the fans have seen the glimpse of the future.

"The kid is 16, we know how talented he is and we just want to develop him in the right way.

"He has been training with the first team and he has had a very good season with the development team and I had no hesitation giving him 45 minutes

"There was always a plan to give him some game time, but with Burkey going off we thought we should throw him in and let him play."

Lennon made seven changes to the side which lost 2-0 against Rangers at Ibrox last week, with several regulars rested to get over niggles and knocks for the William Hill Scottish Cup final against the Gorgie side at Hampden Park next week, where the Hoops can clinch an unprecedented treble treble.

He said: "Filip Benkovic, Nir Bitton, Olivier Ntcham, Scott Sinclair needed game time and it was important that they played for sharpness and all the things you get from the game today, bearing in mind they could be involved in the final next week."

Jambos boss Craig Levein revealed midfielder Olly Lee, who was replaced by Ryan Edwards, was a major doubt for the cup final.

"He has twisted his knee so it doesn't sound great," said Levein.

"He wasn't supposed to start, but Harry Cochrane got ill and I put Olly in.

"It is never good when he goes back on and comes off again. That is the one downside.

"I'm hoping Peter Haring, Arnaud Djoum and Uche Ikpeazu will be fit for next week."

PWDLFAPts

Celtic (C)382765772087

Rangers382396822778

Kilmarnock3819109503167

Aberdeen3820711574467

Hibernian38141212513954

Hearts3815617425051

St Johnstone3815716384852

Motherwell3815617465651

Livingston38111116424444

Hamilton389623287533

St Mirren (PO)388822346632

Dundee (R)385627317821

 

celtic: Bain, Ralston, Ajer, Benkovic (Simunovic, 82 mins), Toljan, Bitton, Ntcham, Johnston, Henderson (McGregor, 64 mins), Sinclair, Burke (Dembele, 46 mins). Unused subs: De Vries, Church, Oko-Flex, Welsh

HEARTS: Zlamal, Smith (Brandon, 56 mins), Shaughnessy, Souttar (Hughes, 67 mins), Lee (Edwards, 12 mins), Clare, Wighton, Mulaney, Irving, Smith, Hickey. Unused subs: Doyle, Bozanic, Dikamore, Petkov.

Referee: Craig Thomson

Man of the match: Mikey Johnston

Match rating: 6/10

Celtic2

Hearts 1

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