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Neil Lennon hails Celtic warriors

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic manager Neil Lennon praised his players for not losing the physical battle against Rangers at Ibrox on Sunday.

Lennon drafted in striker Georgios Samaras and midfielder Ki Sung-yueng to give his side added height and power for the trip to Govan and was rewarded with a point in a goalless draw which swung the Clydesdale Bank Premier League title race back in their favour.

Samaras had a late penalty saved by Rangers keeper Allan McGregor but Lennon was pleased with the way the Greece international and his team-mates matched up to the home side throughout a typically hard-fought 90 minutes.

Celtic remain one point behind Walter Smith's side but have a game in hand which could prove crucial.

“We are in a good place,” said the former Hoops skipper. “We are a wee bit disappointed that we didn't win but we can take a lot of satisfaction in the way we played.

“My players were strong. They have gone there before and been beaten up but there was none of that.

“We withstood everything, we defended set-pieces quite well and got stronger and stronger as the game went on.

“We opened the game up and we had plenty of running in the team.

“We got a penalty and that could have been a pivotal moment in the game but it didn't go our way.

“But I have to look at our overall performance and the 13 players who performed did everything for the club.”

Lennon believes his side could win their last five games to guarantee the title returns to Parkhead but expects life to be made difficult.

He said: “They are capable of doing it. But Rangers could quite easily win all their games. We have to be thinking that way and not expect any favours from anyone and take each game as it comes.

“Every game is a cup final from here on. Teams want to take your scalp and we have to be prepared for that.

“But there is no doubt about my players' mentality.”

Lennon's gamble to bring back Joe Ledley backfired as the Welsh

man had to come off at the start of the second half with what looked like a recurrence of a hamstring injury.

The Celtic boss said: “We decided to play him because he has been a huge player for us this season and again he played very well until he came off.

“He will have to have a scan to see how bad the injury is.”

Meanwhile, Scott Brown insists the title race remains in the balance despite Celtic's goalless draw against Rangers. “I think it is still wide open,” said Brown.

“There are a lot of games to play and it will be a really hard run-in.

“I thought we played really well and stood up to everything Rangers threw at us.

“I think on the day we were probably the better team.

“But if you had asked anyone, we would have taken one point before the game, that's for sure.”

The Scotland midfielder and Hoops skipper added: “Seven games in one season (against Rangers) is definitely enough for anyone.”

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