NEIL LENNON praised matchwinner Jozo Simunovic after Celtic’s hard-fought 1-0 triumph over Kilmarnock at Parkhead yesterday.
And the Hoops’ interim manager reckoned the Croatian defender’s headed points-clincher was the “perfect way” to win a game in honour of club legend Billy McNeill who sadly passed away on Monday at the age of 79.
It was an emotionally-charged afternoon in the east end of Glasgow as thousands paid tribute to the man who captained the side that won the European Cup in 1967 and later went on to manage the club in two stints.
Simunovic, wearing the No.5 so closely associated with McNeill, nodded in a Callum McGregor cross for his first goal of the season seven seconds after the 67-minute mark to move the champions 12 points ahead in their quest for an eighth successive title.
Lennon, speaking to STV, said: “It’s amazing when you think about it.
“That was a perfect way to win the game I suppose under the circumstances, with everything that’s happened this week and today.
“The Big Man might have been looking down on us when we needed a goal.
“Jozo has been outstanding for me since I’ve come in.
JOY BHOYS…Scott Brown leads the cheers with Kristoffer Ajer after Jozo Simunovic’s winner.
“I want my centre-halves to attack the ball more and he’s doing that on a regular basis.
“I’m pleased with the win, pleased with the second-half and it’s a great three points.
“Kilmarnock created opportunities with us being sloppy. We were ill-disciplined defensively, not just the back four, but the midfield, as well.
“We were a little bit loose. We wanted that tidied up in the second-half.
“It was lot better and we showed more attacking intent.”
Simunovic, who presented the McNeill family with his No.5 jersey afterwards, said he was “very proud” to play his part in the victory.
He said: “It was very special, very emotional. I couldn’t imagine the scenes when we came here before the game, so many people outside, his family, as well.
“An amazing feeling, an amazing guy for Celtic. A big, big guy for the club, for the history of Celtic.
“I’m just proud, very proud.”