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When Celtic met Hearts in the Scottish Cup final on Sunday, it was an ideal opportunity for Neil Lennon to silence the skeptics for a while.
In fact, after the Hoops won 2-0, it looked like positivity would finally be reached at Parkhead.
Ryan Christie scored a terrific starter as he hit the ball from far and then Odsonne Edouard blatantly found the back of the net from the penalty spot with a panenka.
It left Craig Gordon furious, but he was the more jubilant of the two goalkeepers as the clash progressed.
In typical Celtic fashion, they were repulsed in the second half and conceded two soft goals. Liam Boyce got behind Shane Duffy, who was caught out of position to head home and then Stephen Kingsley tied with just over 20 minutes to go.
Hearts were on the rise at this point and they should have won the game before it reached overtime. Josh Ginnelly had two brilliant chances, but he shot high and wide.
The Celtic defense was again quite comical and, on a day when Lennon needed his leading figures to lead by example, they were unable to help an understandably nervous Conor Hazard.
Who should play in the Celtic goal?
However, his performance during regulation time and then into extra time showed why he still has work to do to secure a starting position. He lacked confidence, was clumsy, and did not admire the task.
Taking to Twitter, Edinburgh sports writer Joel Sked said: “Conor Hazard. Three times it seemed doubtful. The three times the ball has been within 40 yards of Celtic’s goal. “
In fact, the 22-year-old set the tone for a nervous performance after just 14 minutes. Hazard ran to clear a pass but missed it completely and allowed Steven Naismith to receive possession.
Fortunately for Hazard, he missed the opportunity. The goalkeeper fought all afternoon and his turgid day was summarized with the second and third goals of Heart
He was too weak when he allowed Naismith to bully him to the side, which effectively led to a blow to Kingsley. By the third, he ran off and couldn’t hit the ball before Christophe Berra could reach it. What followed was a hint for Ginnelly, who atoned for her earlier mistakes.
Celtic have had numerous problems with their goalkeepers this season. Vasilis Barkas did some screaming against AC Milan, while Scott Bain did not improve when the Bhoys traveled to Prague in Europe.
This is a situation that should leave Lennon deeply concerned about who plays between positions.
Forget the fact that he saved two penalties from spot on penalties, Hazard’s contribution in regulation time wasn’t good enough. If those mistakes hadn’t been made, Celtic wouldn’t even have needed penalties to win.
The Hoops now have a huge dilemma to solve.
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