Celtic 1 - 2 Hearts: Neil Lennon vents semi-final fury on Twitter

CELTIC manager Neil Lennon could face a fourth SFA disciplinary charge in as many weeks after an angry reaction to his team’s Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Hearts at Hampden.

He also took to the social networking site Twitter after the match to claim two crucial penalty decisions that went against his team were “personal”.

Lennon marched on to the pitch to confront referee Euan Norris at full-time, remonstrating with the official over the controversial ending to Hearts’ dramatic 2-1 victory, sealed by a Craig Beattie penalty which initially seemed to be awarded for handball against Joe Ledley. It later emerged that Norris told Celtic players he saw the ball strike Victor Wanyama’s hand after it rebounded from Ledley. Lennon was also upset with Norris waving away Celtic’s penalty claim for handball against Hearts defender Andy Webster in the dying seconds of the match.

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Lennon already has three disciplinary cases pending, all of which he is contesting, and will face a Judicial Panel hearing at Hampden this Thursday. He was cited by SFA Compliance Officer Vincent Lunny for his post-match criticism of referee Willie Collum’s failure to award Celtic a penalty in their League Cup Final defeat by Kilmarnock on 18 March.

Lennon was then sent from the technical area at half-time by referee Calum Murray during Celtic’s 3-2 defeat by Rangers at Ibrox seven days later, before being written to again by Lunny for comments about the referee ahead of the home game against St Johnstone on 1 April.

Post-match media duties at Hampden yesterday were left to first-team coach Alan Thompson, although Lennon did take to Twitter later in the day to hint at a vendetta against him. “Referee told players he thought Wanyama handled ... feel so sorry for players and fans ... I think it’s personal myself,” read his tweet.

Lennon later re-tweeted a comment from a Celtic supporter which suggested the club “pack our bags and get out of this league that is run by crooked SFA officials”.

He continued to rage on Twitter, accusing a Manchester United supporter of talking “clap trap” when he suggested Celtic striker Gary Hooper had been offside for Celtic’s equaliser, and dismissing as “nonsense” a comment by a Celtic fan that the team “shouldn’t be relying on decisions, the players weren’t good enough”.

Thompson was also critical of Norris’ decision making yesterday, insisting he should have awarded either two penalty kicks or none at all.

“I think they are very similar,” said Thompson. “I’ve seen them again three or four times. If he gives it at one end, then he has to give it at the other end, too. Yes, they have struck the hand. Was it deliberate in both instances? No, I don’t think it was. So it’s just inconsistency. If he gives one, then he really has to go up the other end and give that one. But he hasn’t. Yet again we think we’ve been done with a big decision In the League Cup Final we were denied a stonewall penalty.”

Asked if Lennon had not attended the media briefing as he wished to avoid talking about the referee, Thompson replied: “Quite possibly, yes. I think Neil has been in to see the referee after the game, but I wasn’t there so I don’t know what was said. We are all angry. We have just lost a semi-final with 92 minutes on the clock. It’s frustrating.”

Thompson also claimed Hearts midfielder Ian Black should have been sent off for a dangerous challenge on Joe Ledley after just 21 minutes. “I’ve seen the tackle and it’s a bad one,” added Thompson. “It was over the ball, over the top. Joe Ledley is quite lucky he’s got away with it. He (Black) got a yellow card which, in my opinion, is wrong.”

When it was suggested Celtic were also fortunate to benefit from a poor decision when Gary Hooper equalised from an offside position, Thompson said: “Yes, but not as fortunate as Joe Ledley is not to have broken his leg.”

Thompson denied Celtic suffered any hangover from their SPL title winning celebrations the previous week and expressed his satisfaction at the level of the team’s performance.

“It’s the highs and lows, isn’t it?” he said. “We were on a high from last week. We had a good week’s training and then the disappointment today. In the first half, Hearts frustrated us a bit. They sat in with 11 men behind the ball and made it difficult.

“In the second half, they came out and had a bit more of a go. They changed their formation a little bit and went 1-0 up. But credit to us, we got back in the game. I felt we did okay today. We played really well, without creating enough chances in the first half. But Ki hit the post at the end of the first half and again in the second half.

“Hearts made it difficult. Teams sit in against you, get bodies behind the ball and play narrow. It’s difficult to break them down. But on the whole, we are happy with the way we played. We were not disappointed at the way they played in the League Cup Final and we’re not disappointed in the way they played today. Yeah, we haven’t played to the heights we have reached previously in the season. But semi-finals and finals are tight occasions.

“We quite possibly deserve more than the league title from this season but the league title is all they are going to get. They are worthy champions. They’ve had a long nine or 10 months. They’ve won the league so comfortably with five games to go and no-one can take that away from them.”