Scott Brown repaid his manager’s faith with a wonder strike in a 2-1 win over Hibernian that helped take Celtic three points clear of rivals Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premier League.
The Hoops captain returned from injury to open the scoring at Parkhead in the fifth minute as he finished off a move he had started at the halfway line by sending a shot into the top corner of the net from 25 yards out.
However, there had been some debate about whether the midfielder would start the game after South Korean Ki Sung-Yeung’s impressive performance in the 6-0 midweek win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Neil Lennon admitted he had thought hard about whether to immediately restore Brown to the starting line-up but praised the midfielder for putting on a performance to silence his critics.
“We had a decision to make. Ki’s performance was obviously at a very high level but we just feel that in game like this Brown can be at his best,” the Celtic manager said.
“As I’ve said before, he’s been a big player for me since I’ve got the job and that manifested itself against Hibs and I thought he was absolutely fantastic.
“He’s had his detractors but we know what he can do. It was a wonderful performance.
“He led the team brilliantly and he showed great energy and quality. It was a wonderful goal he scored as well and if we hadn’t have had him we might have struggled.”
Brown’s fantastic volley was the only bright spot of a first-half where Hibs failed to trouble Fraser Forster in goal and the Hoops strikers misfired in front of goal.
Things improved after the break and Glenn Loovens doubled Celtic’s advantage with a diving header before Derek Riordan showed sublime skill to lob Forster from outside the box.
The win kept up Celtic’s 100 percent winning start to the season and is their 14th league win in a row since Lennon took over as manager.
Lennon admitted it had been a workmanlike performance against Hibs, who have won only once in nine games this season, but was delighted his side had heaped the pressure on Rangers, who take on Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday.
“It was important we won the game and put the onus back on Rangers and we have done that,” the Celtic boss added.
“Things are looking good and I’m very pleased. I can’t ask any more of them. They’re not going to play brilliantly every home game. They’ve been fantastic at home so far but there are going to be games when you have to maybe dig out a result.”
We were a bit flat at times and some individuals were probably not at their very best but when you go 2-0 up you should see the game out comfortably.
“When it goes to 2-1 it gets a bit edgy but we had enough chances towards the end to see the game off. It was almost pedestrian in the first-half at times so we tried to up the tempo in the second-half.”
Daniel Majstorovic had taken over as captain from Brown for the game against Inverness in midweek but he was happy to return the armband to the Scotland star.
“He’s the captain of the team and he had a very good game and shows what he brings to the team,” the Swedish defender said.
“He’s a fantastic player and I think he is an important player for Celtic and his country. He has shown everyone he can be a top player and I have been very impressed by him.”
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