Lennon rues defensive frailties as Celtic snatch draw at Hibs

Celtic fought back from 2-0 down to draw at Easter Road.

Lennon rues defensive frailties as Celtic snatch draw at Hibs SNS Group

Celtic manager Neil Lennon admits his team have a “softness” about them after they were forced to come back from two goals down to get a point against Hibernian.

A 2-2 draw at Easter Road handed Rangers the chance to move 11 points clear when the Scottish Premiership leaders host Aberdeen on Sunday.

Jamie Murphy gave Hibs a 52nd-miniute lead when the on-loan Rangers player followed up Kevin Nisbet’s saved penalty after Scott Brown’s needless barge on Martin Boyle on the bye-line.

An unchallenged Murphy soon headed a diagonal ball into the path of Nisbet to fire home in space before substitute Odsonne Edouard pulled one back from the spot with 11 minutes left following a Paul McGinn handball.

Diego Laxalt levelled after a half-cleared stoppage-time free-kick.

“We controlled the first half without really penetrating,” Lennon said. “Our final ball was poor and we were a little bit passive in the final third for my liking.

“Then we shot ourselves in the foot. Scott has made a really rash decision which is unnecessary.

“And then the second goal is awful, just lazy. It’s a free header and whether it’s a free header or the guy gets contact under a challenge, we didn’t track the run. We just let him get the shot off so easy.

“We gave ourselves a mountain to climb and we did it. Our attitude and quality in the final 20 minutes was excellent, but that should be for the 90 minutes.”

Lennon added: “I thought we had got through all the rankles of conceding soft goals. Bainy [Scott Bain] even saves the penalty and we have got two boys stood watching it. Murphy is first to react.

“We have got to get a defensive mode on, we are not doing the nuts and bolts of the game anywhere near well enough. There is a softness about us defensively that we need to eradicate.”

Lennon went with Albian Ajeti up front but Celtic lacked a penalty-box threat until Edouard came on.

When asked about Ajeti, Lennon said: “He did OK. Look, I’m not going to judge him on one game.

“He did fine and he’s been looking sharper in training. But he didn’t affect the game enough probably the way we wanted him to.

“We go to Motherwell and get a good win, we kept the same team, and it was OK up until we conceded the goal. Then we go to sleep for 10 minutes. It’s not acceptable.”

On Edouard, he said: “He looked more like himself, which is very pleasing. He is one who can contribute a lot more now as we go along.”

Hibernian head coach Jack Ross felt his side had just as strong a penalty claim for handball.

“If the one in the second half is a penalty, then I think the one in the first half is,” he said. “I don’t really see the difference.

“The rule is frustrating because I don’t think referees enjoy giving the one against Paul McGinn. His hand is by his side. But Sean Mackie’s shot was blocked by an arm.”

Ross was proud of his players’ performance and added: “It’s probably a day for me to accentuate the positives in our performance.

“I think we were deservedly ahead and feel as if we have done enough to win the game. But it’s difficult to see past the frustration because it’s still raw.

“The penalty is an important moment because at that time I felt we looked maybe more likely to add to the lead. The penalty changes the dynamics and they have a lot of really good attacking players on the pitch.

“But I still thought we had come through the worst of it. We probably shouldn’t give away the foul and then we should make a better clearance.”

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