Lennon: Celtic are building momentum
Neil Lennon feels Celtic are building momentum heading into next weekend's potential title-deciding Old Firm derby, after he watched his side reach the Scottish Cup final with a comfortable 4-0 win over ten-man Aberdeen.
Both sides had chances before Andrew Considine saw red in the 18th minute as he brought down Gary Hooper in the box, but Jamie Langfield stopped Anthony Stokes' penalty, his second penalty save against the Irish international this season.
Celtic got their noses in front when Charlie Mulgrew fired them ahead with a 25-yard free-kick three minutes into the second half and Joe Ledley doubled the lead in the 57th minute.
Hooper scored from the penalty spot six minutes later after a clumsy sliding challenge from Derek Young on Stokes, before substitute Shaun Maloney tapped in a late fourth to send the Hoops into the 21 May final, where they will meet Motherwell.
It was Celtic's fourth win a row and ninth in ten matches - the run only interrupted by a narrow 2-1 defeat to Rangers in the League Cup final - and Lennon said his side were in good form as they prepared to play their Old Firm rivals on Sunday.
"We are on a decent run at the minute. We are winning games and performances like that won't do us any harm," said Lennon. "But we've got a big week now. We've got Kilmarnock on Wednesday and obviously Ibrox on Sunday.
"I think the Scottish Cup is an incentive. It's a piece of silverware obviously. We tried to approach the game like a league game in terms of it being a must-win game. The application and the way they went about their business was very good.
"But the Scottish Cup is on the back burner now. We've got that to look forward to but it's back to concentrating on what we really want."
The win was Celtic's fifth against Aberdeen this season, having scored 21 and conceded just one. Both managers were at a loss to explain why the Hoops have been so impressive against this particular team.
"I don't know, they might just catch us on a good day. Certainly I think it stems from the front two, who have caused them problems all season," said Lennon.
"But for a bit of good fortune Stokes could have had a couple in the first half and Hooper started the second half brilliantly, and but for Jamie Langfield we could have been more comfortable winners."
Brown baffled by Celtic defeats
Craig Brown, who wasn't in charge of the Dons when they were handed a record 9-0 defeat by Celtic in November, said his side had been unlucky in their other encounters this term.
"I have been involved in four games against Celtic and at Celtic Park it was 1-0 and we deserved a draw," said the former Scotland coach, who moved from Motherwell to take over at Aberdeen earlier this season when Mark McGhee was sacked.
"Then we had the game here where we were well beaten and then at Pittodrie we lost a player after two minutes. The other three matches have been unfortunate for us and this one again we lost a player when it was 0-0."
Lennon was caretaker manager as Celtic crashed out at the same stage of the competition to First Division minnows Ross County last season and he says this will banish some of the ghosts of that defeat for his players.
"I think that will always get raised every now and again but I think for a lot of the players it was a bit of an eradication of what went on last year," Lennon said. "I thought the performance was tremendous as a team and I thought we played very well.
"I know it is ten men but sometimes it is difficult to break ten men down when they are committed as Aberdeen were. But our movement was good and the pace and tempo to the game was good as well."