Hibernian manager Neil Lennon claimed he had done nothing wrong after making a provocative arm-gesture towards the Ibrox main stand following his side’s equaliser in their fiery 3-2 win over Rangers yesterday.
Lennon was unhappy with suggestions he had crossed the line and could be facing disciplinary action. The Hibs boss made the gesture after he cupped hands to his ears and turned to the Rangers support when Simon Murray scored to set the Easter Road men on their way to a resounding victory.
It came in an ill-tempered clash that brought a red card from referee John Beaton for Rangers’ Ryan Jack that is set to be appealed by the club. The midfielder was dismissed in the 36th minute for pushing his head against that of Anthony Stokes in one of the many altercations during a match settled by a James Tavernier own goal and a fine hit from Vykintas Slivka on his first Hibs start. Tavernier pulled a goal back for Rangers in the closing minutes.
It was the first meeting between the clubs since the 2016 Scottish Cup final which ended with fans fighting on the pitch, and the bad blood spilled into the post-match press conference.
Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha took issue with Lennon over his conduct towards fourth official Euan Anderson. Lennon, meanwhile, was sneering about Ibrox assistant Helder Baptista making a complaint to the police about him. Asked if he was unhappy with Baptista’s actions, Lennon replied curtly: “Yes.”
He added: “He should have got back in his box. Funnily enough he didn’t have something to say to me. I don’t know what he said. I assume he was unhappy with something. There were a few things that went on in their dugout I was unhappy about but didn’t go running off to the police and tell them about it.”
Lennon, who was “thrilled with the character” of his team and described the Ibrox atmosphere as “brilliant”, offered an emphatic “no” when asked if he was concerned over any comeback for his interactions with the Rangers support that hardly gave the former Celtic player and manager a warm welcome.
“You are looking for things that aren’t there. I didn’t make a gesture, I celebrated a goal, if they are unhappy with that they can see me. But I shouldn’t get into trouble for that.
“I’m celebrating a goal, so what way are you supposed to celebrate a goal? If I pick my nose somebody will find something to criticise me for. I’m celebrating a goal – so that’s the end of it.”
It wasn’t the end of it for Caixinha, who had many oblique complaints, which included his dismay over an unnamed early challenge. “If one player in rugby did that with five minutes and one goal up on the game he needs to be sent off,” the Rangers manager said. Caixinha’s other gripe appeared to concern what he perceived as different treatment for him and Lennon over their communication with the fourth official. He drew parallels with his time in Mexico when he was the only European coach in a set up with otherwise only Mexicans and South Americans trackside.
“Now I’m the only one out from the UK, but that’s no problem for me,” he said after comments on the “other manager” and the way “he goes with the fourth official”. “My focus is defend this institution; my focus is defend this place. It is a fight until my last day to bring this club to the place it deserves.”