HIBERNIAN have responded defiantly to criticism of their physical approach from Celtic manager Neil Lennon in the wake of Saturday’s 1-1 draw between the sides at Easter Road.
Lennon, whose mood wasn’t helped by the fact he has probably lost Kris Commons to injury for tomorrow night’s Champions League clash at home to Ajax, was irate over what he deemed to be an over-zealous approach from Pat Fenlon’s side, branding some of their challenges “absolutely shocking” and “reckless”. He was particularly perturbed by a tackle from Hibs substitute Rowan Vine on his rookie right-back, Darnell Fisher, describing it as “rugby-esque”.
However, Hibs centre-back Michael Nelson was clearly riled by Lennon’s claims, as he took to Twitter to post a picture of himself sporting a black eye he had sustained late on in the match, accompanied by the words: “Certain people crying and moaning about tackles in the paper today. Don’t hear me complaining about this #manup.”
Lennon hinted in his diatribe that Celtic wouldn’t forget the welcome they had been offered at Easter Road and might adopt an aggressive approach of their own when Hibs visit Parkhead. “It was shocking, absolutely shocking and reckless,” he said. “The tackle by Rowan Vine on Darnell Fisher was rugby-esque. I’m all for competitive football, but, seriously, they were borderline tackles. I made my feelings clear to the fourth official.
“I don’t think it was any Hibs player in particular, it was across the board. We’ve got a big Champions League game and I’m not asking any favours. I don’t mind teams being competitive and the physicality of the game was good, just over the top. People will say it’s a man’s game and it is, but the tackles were late, high, reckless.
“Pat will say he sent his team out to get in our faces, but the ref should take more of a grip on it sometimes. We’ll play Hibs again, though.”
Fenlon was unfazed by Lennon’s stance, saying: “Good. It means my message is getting across to my men. We want to compete, get in people’s faces. Celtic knew they were in a game. If you stand off them, they’ll tear you apart – we weren’t going to do that.”
While Hibs’ approach can be left open to debate, there were certainly no dirty tactics at play in relation to the hamstring injury which forced Commons off midway through the first half, and which renders him a serious doubt for tomorrow’s crucial clash with Ajax. “It’s a huge blow,” said Lennon. “He just stretched for a ball and felt something. If it’s a strain it’s at least a couple of weeks out, so it’s not looking good for Tuesday.”