Len­non: Ges­ture? I was only cel­e­brat­ing

The Sunday Post (Inverness) - - FRONT PAGE - By Danny Ste­wart sport@sun­day­post.com

NOT for the first time, Neil Len­non was at the cen­tre of con­tro­versy at Ibrox yes­ter­day.

The Hibs man­ager steered his side to a fa­mous 3- 2 win to heap pres­sure on Rangers boss Pe­dro Caix­inha.

But the Ir­ish­man riled the home sup­port, and the Light Blues’ as­sis­tant man­ager, Helder Bap­tista, with a se­ries of ges­tures on the touch­line.

Bap­tista was so irate he re­ported what he’d seen to the po­lice.

But af­ter­wards Len­non in­sisted: “I’m cel­e­brat­ing a goal, so what way are you sup­posed to cel­e­brate a goal?”

“You are look­ing for things that aren’t there.”

THE early days of the new sea­son and an ab­so­lute bel­ter be­tween th­ese old ri­vals.

Hibs’ his­toric, and trou­ble- hit, vic­tory in the 2016 Scot­tish Cup Fi­nal was the last time th­ese clubs met.

Here in front of a packed Ibrox which fairly thrummed from start to fin­ish, they went at each other as if try­ing their best to make up for lost time.

And when the dust had set­tled yes­ter­day not only was the score the same as in that mo­men­tous meet­ing at Ham­p­den Park, but also the out­come with the Ed­in­burgh side again claim­ing the hon­ours.

It was fran­tic stuff and not the re­sult Pe­dro Caix­inha – with the jury still out on his suit­abil­ity to be Rangers man­ager – needed.

His mid­fielder Ryan Jack was sent off af­ter clash­ing with An­thony Stokes, who was booked. Eight other play­ers were shown yel­low cards.

The vis­i­tors’ man­ager, Neil Len­non, would have re­ceived his march­ing or­ders to the stand had ref­eree John Beaton not missed his of­fen­sive arm ges­tures to the Light Blues fans in the main stand at Hibs’ equaliser.

Light Blues as­sis­tant man­ager Helder Bap­tista cer­tainly didn’t miss it for he could be seen com­plain­ing to the po­lice.

This was a con­test of non- stop in­ci­dent and one punc­tu­ated by some great goals, none bet­ter than Hibs’ third from the former Ju­ven­tus player Vyk­in­tas Slivka.

It also had a quite sen­sa­tional at­mos­phere as a back­drop.

With both sets of sup­port­ers belt­ing out songs at full vol­ume, this had the feel of a league de­cider at kick­off time rather than a start- of- sea­son clash.

And Len­non, later a sin­ner, did his bit to con­trib­ute to the sense of drama, re­new­ing ac­quain­tance with the Rangers sup­port for the first time since the 2016 Scot­tish Cup Fi­nal by plac­ing his fin­gers on his left lobe. It was a play­ful ref­er­ence all the way back to 2011 when, as Celtic man­ager, he in­fa­mously cupped his hands to his ears in a ges­ture to the home fans.

In the op­po­si­tion tech­ni­cal area, Caix­inha who had ex­changed a hand­shake with his op­po­site num­ber sec­onds ear­lier, watched on im­pas­sively.

At least, that was, until the ac­tion be­gan.

Within three min­utes of the first whis­tle sound­ing, the Por­tuguese was leap­ing about, pump­ing his fist in the air again and again in cel­e­bra­tion of his side’s near in­stant break­through. Sim­ple stuff it was too. Daniel Can­deias swung in a free kick from deep in­side Hibs’ half and Al­fredo More­los rose high­est to power a header into the net.

It was the striker’s third goal in four days and for a while all was well with the home side.

Hibs, though, were not in the mood to be cowed.

By the time quar­ter of the match was over they were level, cour­tesy of a lovely run and placed fin­ish from Si­mon Mur­ray.

The striker, a sum­mer pick- up from Dundee United, showed both pace to beat Fabio Car­doso and pre­ci­sion to then find the far cor­ner of the net.

By half- time they led, Rangers de­fender James Tav­ernier hav­ing put through his own net when try­ing to clear a Vyk­in­tas Slivka shot.

Sand­wiched in be­tween the goals was the dis­missal of Ryan Jack.

The former Aberdeen skip­per saw red for aim­ing a head butt at Stokes.

“I’d have to have a look at it again but if Ryan has made any kind of mo­tion with his head then in this day and age it is a send­ing off,” said Jack’s team­mate Kenny Miller.

“The ref­eree was pretty pos­i­tive that there was some kind of for­ward mo­tion with his head so he was quite happy with his de­ci­sion.”

It wasn’t a huge shock to see the numbers re­duced.

This one had been very nasty al­most from the mo­ment Stokes and Tav­ernier tan­gled in the open­ing min­utes.

The red card didn’t re­ally de­tract from the en­ter­tain­ment, at least not for the neu­trals.

Slivka scored a beauty when bring­ing the ball out­side the Rangers box and slam­ming a 25- yard ef­fort home.

Rangers’ fi­nal con­tri­bu­tion to the goals haul was less flash, a Tav­ernier header at the back post, but no less cred­itable.

Bring on the next one be­tween this pair.

Neil Len­non’s ges­tures on the Ibrox touch­line yes­ter­day up­set the home fans and Rangers’ as­sis­tant boss, Helder Bap­tista.

■ Ryan Jack was red carded for this clash with Hibs’ An­thony Stokes.

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