Lennon on collision course with SFA again after confronting ref

Neil Lennon looks likely to be locking horns yet again with the Scottish Football Association following Celtic's Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Hearts at Hampden today.

Neil Lennon looks likely to be locking horns yet again with the Scottish Football Association following Celtic's Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Hearts at Hampden today.

The Celtic manager marched on to the pitch to confront referee Euan Norris after the Hoops lost to a late penalty.

Extra-time appeared probable when Parkhead striker Gary Hooper levelled Rudi Skacel's opener with four minutes remaining.

However, in the 90th minute Norris dramatically pointed to the spot after a shot from Jambos skipper Marius Zaliukas hit the arm of Joe Ledley and substitute Craig Beattie, a former Parkhead striker, scored to set up the first Hearts versus Hibernian final since 1896.

Lennon, who has three disciplinary cases pending, was further enraged when Norris refused the Clydesdale Bank Premier League champions a penalty in injury time when the ball appeared to come off the arm of Hearts defender Andy Webster.

The former Celtic skipper did not turn up at the post-match press conference but coach Alan Thompson confirmed the Northern Irishman had been into the referees' room afterwards.

He said: "I think he has been in, yes, but I wasn't there so I don't know what was said.

"We are all angry. We have just lost the semi-final of the cup when there were 92 minutes on the clock, it is frustrating." Thompson was livid about the two penalty incidents.

"I think they are very similar," said the former Celtic midfielder. "I've seen each three or four times and if he gives one then he has to give the other.

"Yes, they have struck the hand. Was it deliberate in both incidents? No, I don't think so.

"Whichever one you talk about, whether he is right or wrong, he has to be consistent, that's all I am going to say."

Thompson was also aggrieved that Hearts midfielder Ian Black was only shown a yellow card in the first half for a challenge on Ledley.

"I've seen the tackle and it is a bad one," he said. "It is over the ball, it's over the top. Joe Ledley is lucky he got away with it, he is fortunate not to get a broken leg.

"He (Black) gets a yellow card for it which in my opinion is wrong, but there you go, you can't change it now."

Lennon was written to by SFA compliance officer Vincent Lunny demanding an explanation for his comments about referees ahead of an SPL game against St Johnstone at Celtic Park at the start of the month.

The Parkhead boss is fighting two other charges relating to criticism of referee Willie Collum after the Scottish Communities League Cup final defeat to Kilmarnock and his half-time dismissal by referee Calum Murray during the recent 3-2 SPL defeat at Ibrox, and once again the focus this week will be on his disciplinary issues.

Jambos boss Paulo Sergio claimed he "didn't see either penalty claim, there were too many bodies there" then said: "I am not too emotional. I am very happy of course, seeing everybody's joy, it is contagious.

"I am very proud of the players, it is a great moment for us.

"We didn't beat a poor team, we beat Celtic, the champions of Scotland, they have a great squad, a great technical staff, and a great manager so we should be proud of that."

Sergio denied that the introduction of Beattie for Scott Robinson at the start of the second half turned the game for Hearts, despite the big striker setting up Skacel for the goal and generally upsetting the Hoops defence before his late winner.

"Nobody changed the game alone," he said. "The team changed the game.

"We had a strategy, we wanted to give the initiative to Celtic to try to use the counter-attack on them.

"But I wasn't happy at half-time, we didn't have the ball, we didn't have any dangerous counter-attacks.

"I spoke to Scott Robinson and told him it wasn't his fault, he was doing a great job but we weren't finding space and I needed another man up front.

"I think we had a great second half."

The Tynecastle boss played down the prospect of an historic cup final meeting against rivals Hibs on May 19 and indeed, warned his players against slackening off in the SPL.

"To play Hibs, it is the same as playing another team," he said.

"It is an opponent to respect and when the time comes we are going to be ready for that but we have important things to do now, we have important games before the final.

"If I feel the players are not focused then maybe they will lose their place for the final.

"The players know the way I want to work, they are used to that.

"They have every right to celebrate today but tomorrow we start thinking about Rangers."

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