JAMES FORREST responded to Neil Lennon’s promptings as he scored his breathtaking opening goal in the 3-0 Scottish Cup semi-final mauling of Aberdeen at Hampden yesterday.
The Scotland international winger’s spectacular left-foot strike opened the way for an onsalught against the Dons with Odsonne Edouard sliding in a penalty-kick to double the advantage and Tom Rogic gliding the third beyond the helpless Joe Lewis.
The victory keeps the Hoops’ remarkable aim of an unprecedented treble treble on course when they return to the national stadium for a grand finale against Hearts on May 25, the 52nd anniversary of the club’s unforgettable and historic European Cup Final success over Inter Milan in Lisbon.
BY THE LEFT…James Forrest thumps in the opener in the 3-0 win over Aberdeen.
Interim gaffer Lennon, who introduced Forrest to the Celtic first team nine years ago, was delighted with the attacker’s goal and overall performance against the Pittodrie outfit who ended with nine men after red cards to Dom Ball and Lewis Ferguson.
The comeback boss, speaking to the Celtic website, said: “We were talking about rotating Jamesy and Jonny Hayes during the game, to try and unsettle Aberdeen in the rhythm of how they defend.
“I said to James before the game: ‘I remember you scoring goals with your left-foot. You scored a worldie at Celtic Park against Hearts as a kid and you’re probably due one,’ – and then he goes and curls in an absolute beauty.
“What a player he is and there’s so much more to come from him. He’s the same kid I’ve known for 10 years and he’s been prolific for me. It was an outstanding goal to set us off for a great victory.
“If I play Jonny left and Jamesy on the right we can make the pitch big. Jonny’s got pace and I like his directness and power. He grew more and more into the game. As the game went on, he got stronger and stronger. He won the penalty and was a constant threat for us in the second-half.”
Lennon handed Forrest his debut as an raw 18-year-old outside-right for the last nine minutes of a home game against Motherwell on May 1, 2010. The youngster responded with a goal, the first of 72 he’s now scored, including tyesterday’s magnificent effort.
Coincidentally, it was this season’s Player of the Year contender who thumped in the first goal of the Irishman’s second spell as Hoops manager with the opener in the 2-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle 24 hours after Lennon had replaced Brendan Rodgers in February.
CALM BEFORE THE STORM…Neil Lennon at a deserted Hampden prior to the semi-final kick-off.
And the interim boss also singled out Jozo Simunovic for praise. He added: “I thought Jozo was absolutely fantastic and I’m delighted for him.
“He’s had a horrific time with injuries and we’ve been trying to manage him through it. I thought he set the tone for the rest of the team. He handled Sam Cosgrove well in the physical battle and showed technical ability that I’ve never seen before from him.
“He set the tone with his drive through to get the shot off. It was very positive and everything we wanted from the team. Jozo lit the fuse for us with that running shot, although he should’ve scored from the subsequent corner!”