Neil Lennon was “ecstatic” after he began his second stint as Celtic boss with a dramatic last-gasp 2-1 Ladbrokes Premiership win over Hearts at Tynecastle.
The former Hoops captain and manager was put back in charge until the end of the season following the shock departure of Brendan Rodgers on Tuesday, and his tenure started positively when winger James Forrest got the visitors off to a fine start with a goal after 36 minutes.
Jambos defender Jamie Brandon was shown a straight red by referee Steven McLean just before the break for a challenge on Parkhead right-back Jeremy Toljan, but the home side levelled in the 56th minute with a penalty from half-time substitute Ollie Bozanic.
The 10-man home side looked as if they might hold out for a point but after two minutes of four added on, substitute Odsonne Edouard grabbed the winner with a close-range strike to keep Celtic eight points clear of Rangers at the top of the table.
Lennon admitted it had been “nerve-racking” beforehand and was more than glad to get off to a winning start.
He said: “I’m ecstatic. It’s a great win at a difficult place under the circumstances.
“We should have made more of the game. We were a goal up at half-time, but we’ve got to stop the sloppiness playing the ball from the back.
“We shot ourselves in the foot and what we did was give Hearts something to hold onto when we should have been in total control of the game.
“You never stop believing with this group that they might make something happen. We put a quality ball in for the goal, which was something we lacked at times tonight.
“But I can’t knock the players. The mentality is absolutely brilliant and I can’t fault them tonight. It’s a brilliant win and psychologically huge.”
Lennon praised his players for responding to the shock of losing Rodgers so close to an important game.
The Northern Irishman said: “It has been a really difficult couple of days, it has to be, psychologically for them to lose Brendan, the quick turnaround.
“That is not easy for them, but they have covered themselves in glory tonight. I am delighted. It was an emotional night for myself.”
Hearts boss Craig Levein was left to rue conceding such a late winner.
He said: “It can be a cruel game at times.
“To lose it when I felt we had coped with just about everything Celtic threw at us was difficult to take.
“Give some credit to Celtic, kept going right to the end and managed to nick the win.
“I think we dug deep for the whole match, started well, had the better opportunities and had Celtic pinned back.
“I was happy with the way things were going until we fell behind and then the sending off.”
Asked about the sending off, Levein said: “I could see why Steven (McLean) gave it.
“Jamie’s elbow is high but I’m not sure how much contact there is, whether it hit him in the face.”
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