Celtic boss Lennon focuses on win not penalty claim

Iain Brines rejects Georgios Samaras's penalty claim
Brines denied a penalty claim by Samaras at McDiarmid Park

Celtic manager Neil Lennon preferred to concentrate on praising his players than comment on a bizarre decision during the 1-0 win over St Johnstone.

Saints defender Michael Duberry handled inside his own box but neither a foul against the challenging Georgios Samaras nor a penalty was awarded.

"It looked like to me like he didn't have one hand but almost two hands on it," Lennon told BBC Scotland.

"But I'm not going to dwell on that too much. It is a huge three points."

The victory in a game that kicked off in the early evening to avoid a clash with the Champions League, stretched Celtic's lead over reigning champions Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premier League to five points.

"They have shown that there's a hunger there and a real desire to bring success to the club," said Lennon.

"There's a lot of football still to play. This game was a particular banana skin considering what we had to put up with the pitch and the kick-off time.

"It's not the worst I've seen, but it's lively with a lot of bobbles and divots on it, but I thought we handled the conditions pretty well.

"This game was one that was giving me a few sleepness nights, but I'm delighted we got through it okay.

"So to keep a clean sheet and take the three points just puts the pressure back on our rivals again."

Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster pulled off a good save to deny Liam Craig a second-half equaliser.

However, picking out Darryl Murphy and striker partner Samaras for praise, Lennon pointed out that most of the chances came at the other end.

"I thought the front two were a handful for the majority of the game and the midfield and back four were very, very strong," he said.

"I thought we were comfortable for most of the game and I thought we should have won more comfortably.

"We missed some very good chances - Murphy header, the keeper has made a great save from Samaras, and then we've hit the bar and had one off the line at the end, should have had a penalty."

The penalty claim ignored by referee Iain Brines came late in the game as Celtic looked to take advantage of St Johnstone being down to 10 men because of an injury to Chris Millar.

"It just seemed to be slow motion," added Lennon. "I don't know if he was going to give a free-kick against and, in the end, he didn't do anything.

"For me, it is a clear-cut penalty. It looked to me like Michael had stopped the ball with his hand clearly.

"If Iain thought it was a foul by Georgios, he should have given the free-kick."

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