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Football | Europe

Neil Lennon © Action Images

Lennon hails Celtic as Juve loom

Celtic manager Neil Lennon was pleased with his side's attitude as they overcame some stubborn Raith Rovers defending to book their place in the Scottish Cup quarterfinals with a 3-0 win at Starks Park.

The Hoops were blasted by Lennon last weekend as "spoilt kids" after a lacklustre performance in their 3-2 defeat to St Mirren ended their hopes of landing a domestic treble this season.

However, there was to be no repeat against their First Division opponents as Celtic dominated the match from the start.

After failing to find a way past the Raith Rovers defence in the first half the Hoops were awarded a spot-kick in the 54th minute which Kris Commons won and expertly dispatched himself.

Substitute Scott Brown missed a golden chance to add another before fellow sub James Forrest made it 2-0 with a fine finish in the 83rd minute.

Charlie Mulgrew's curling 86th minute effort sealed victory.

"We looked more like ourselves and our application was excellent from the first whistle," the Hoops boss said.

"We had to be patient but I thought we controlled the game. We dominated the first half without being brilliant in the final third. We just felt that once we got the first goal the game would open up for us and that's exactly what it did.

"We know the expectation levels and the pressure we face, particularly in these one-off games, but our attitude was a lot better and overall it was a very professional performance."

Winger Forrest, who has been restricted to just 18 appearances this season due to injury, got his first run out for the Scottish Premier League leaders since December 26.

"He is a wonderful player and he makes us better. He has been dying to get back into the team," Lennon revealed.

"In his last three appearances he has scored two goals and in each appearance he has been marvellous.

"He has worked really hard in training and you can see what a great player he is. He has so much ahead of him and he is a throw back to the players we love in the traditions of the club like Jimmy Johnstone. He gets people off their seats."

Forrest's return has come at a timely point for Celtic who are due to face Italian giants Juventus at Parkhead on February 12 in their last 16 Champions League tie.

First up for Celtic though is a tough match away to second placed Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the league.

But Lennon admitted he may rest some players for the trip north with the crucial European clash in mind.

"We've got to take it one game at a time but there is no doubt it is looming in the background and has been since we came back from the winter break," the Celtic boss added.

"We have tried to prepare the squad and give everyone some game time as best we can and obviously get the injured players back as well.

"We have tried to balance the squad as best we can and keep the squad healthy.

"With Anthony Stokes and James Forrest coming back the squad is looking a lot stronger. It gives us a lot more attacking dimensions going into these big games coming up.

"For Inverness we will probably make changes and rest a couple of players who we want to be peaking for the Juventus game.

"We know that Inverness is a tough game but the squad is vibrant and there are players ready to play."


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