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Manager: That's the best team has played since my return to Celtic

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NEIL Lennon described Celtic’s performance at Hampden as the best the team has played since he took over as manager at the end of February. Goals from James Forrest, Odsonne Edouard and Tom Rogic gave the Hoops a 3-0 win over Aberdeen and a place in next month’s Scottish Cup final against Hearts.

And the Celtic manager was delighted with the performance and result against an Aberdeen side who ended the match with nine men following the dismissals of Dominic Ball and Lewis Ferguson.

Speaking at the National Stadium after the game, the Irishman said: “We started the game very well on the front foot and had many chances. Joe Lewis made a great save from Jozo and then, from the corner, we should have scored. And Jonny Hayes also got in and miss-hit the shot.

“For me that was more than what we created in the first-half against Aberdeen at Celtic Park. There was a change in the mentality of the team going into the game and we didn’t let Aberdeen settle into the shape and there was a good intensity to our play.

“It’s a brilliant feeling. There was a lot of pressure this week, pressure I’ve never experienced before with the circumstances of the job, which can be quite awkward. So I’m really pleased with the performance and it felt more like it today.

“We played with a lot of attacking intent, which I was delighted with, and delighted we negotiated a tough game under a lot of scrutiny.”

Dominic Ball was send off after a terrible challenge on Ryan Christie in the first-half, which saw the Aberdeen defender receive his second yellow card and the Celtic midfielder stretchered off. In the second-half, Lewis Ferguson was given a straight red for a two-footed tackle on Tom Rogic.

“I don’t think there was any intention to hurt Ryan but he (Dominic Ball) was late in the challenge,” said the Celtic manager. “Unfortunately we’ve lost Ryan to what could be a bad injury.

“He was conscious at half-time so we’re not sure whether it’s a broken eye socket or a fractured cheek bone. According to the medical team, they are hoping he’ll be fit for the cup final when it comes around, so we’re looking at three to four weeks out. Both myself and Derek heard the crack. It was a hell of a challenge.

“There’ no argument (over Ferguson red card). It was a two-footed lunge so it was a straight red for me. That comes with frustration, or whatever you want to call it.

“There was a lot of pressure going into the game because if we lost, the treble treble’s gone and the cup record. It was really important to negotiate that off the back of Livingston, so it was good to bounce back with a really strong performance today.”

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