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'Criminal decision cost us the treble,' says Lennon after Stokes claim

THE judgment from Willie Collum was: no penalty and a dive.

Anthony Stokes falls under the challenge of Michael Nelson.  Picture: SNS
Anthony Stokes falls under the challenge of Michael Nelson. Picture: SNS

The verdict from Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, and Anthony Stokes, his striker, was that the referee was guilty of an awful mistake. "It is a criminal decision and it has cost us the treble," said Lennon of the moment Stokes went down under a challenge from Michael Nelson in time added on.

Stokes, who was booked for simulation, said: "It's a stonewall penalty. The boy has caught me. He said himself afterwards that even he couldn't understand how it wasn't a penalty. I knew that myself, but there is not much I can do about it now."

Lennon agreed, saying of his striker: "He's clean through, he's holding the boy off, the player lunges at him and takes his leg away and doesn't get anywhere near the ball. So it's a penalty and a red card, in the final minute of the game where we have banged away at the door. And to rub salt in the wounds he books Anthony for diving, which is awful refereeing. There's no way Anthony Stokes would go down clean through on goal. Nelson's reaction [shows] he knows he has given a penalty away and he is hugely relieved. I couldn't believe the decision.

"I shook Willie's hand at the end of the game because I wanted to act in a dignified manner and I thought overall he had a decent game, but that is a big call in a cup final and for me he's got it horribly wrong."

The Celtic manager said he might call John Fleming, the SFA's head of referee development, for an opinion on the matter. However, he admitted his side had paid the price for a series of missed chances and an excellent display from Cammy Bell, the Kilmarnock goalkeeper. "We were wasteful in front of goal and in that respect we have only ourselves to blame," said Lennon.

"Disappointment is an understatement, but if you don't take your chances you are liable to a team nicking a goal and that is exactly what happened today. We dominated the game and missed loads of simple chances. I am not saying we didn't play well. From what I hear their goalkeeper got man of the match and I think that is indicative of how we played."

Stokes also praised Bell. "Their keeper made some great saves," he said. "I thought we dominated the game and played very well but we just couldn't put the ball in the back of the net. We had chances from early on. Hoops [Gary Hooper] had one after a few minutes and nine times out of 10 he would put it away. But we kept on creating chances.

"Even in the second half, I thought we had sustained pressure before they scored. You just have to congratulate Kilmarnock, I suppose. They are the winners and well done to them."

Another striker was in a different frame of mind. Dieter van Tornhout marked his 27th birthday with a goal that made history, giving Kilmarnock their first League Cup, and provoked "an amazing adrenaline surge" for the scorer. A modest career, most recently spent in Cyprus, was given a wonderful high point.

Van Tornhout was keen to emphasise it was team performance that took the cup to Ayrshire. "We were the underdogs as they were in the race for the three domestic trophies," he said. "We had a few chances before the goal and we deserved to win the game. Celtic are a big team, but they had an off-day. They did not create too much."

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