Neil Lennon has resigned as Celtic manager with bitter rivals Rangers closing in on the Scottish Premiership title.

The Hoops are 18 points adrift of Steven Gerrard's side after Sunday's 1-0 loss at Ross County, leaving their hopes of a 10th consecutive championship in tatters.

Celtic confirmed on Wednesday that Lennon, who won the league twice after returning in May 2019, has brought his second spell at the helm to an end.

"We have experienced a difficult season due to so many factors and, of course, it is very frustrating and disappointing that we have not been able to hit the same heights as we did previously," the 49-year-old told the club's official website.

"I have worked as hard as ever to try and turn things around, but unfortunately we have not managed to get the kind of run going that we have needed.

"I have always given my best to the club and have been proud to deliver silverware to the Celtic supporters."

Lennon's return to Celtic also yielded two Scottish Cups and a League Cup, having won the former twice in his first stint, along with three league titles.

Assistant manager John Kennedy will take interim charge of the team, with Celtic hosting Aberdeen on Saturday.

Celtic confirmed on Monday that manager Neil Lennon and 13 senior players are self-isolating, but the club are still defending the decision to hold a training camp in Dubai.

Defender Christopher Jullien tested positive for COVID-19 after the team returned to Scotland ahead of Monday's Premiership clash with Hibernian.

Although all other squad and staff members returned negative tests, Lennon, assistant John Kennedy and 13 first-team players are self-isolating after being deemed close contacts.

The reigning champions remain insistent they followed "rigorous" COVID-secure protocols and that the threat of contracting the virus would have been similarly high had they stayed in Scotland.

In a statement, Celtic said: "Clearly we are hugely disappointed, as we know our supporters will be. The contacts were identified during the period from Wednesday last week, primarily around flight and team coach travel, during which time Celtic applied the same rigorous protocols used for pre-season training camps, UEFA match travel and for all domestic match arrangements in Scotland.    

"These protocols have served us well in the past, as the club has not had one positive case in our own 'bubble' until now. As we have already stated, Celtic's decision to travel to Dubai for a training camp was for performance reasons. Whilst we were in Dubai, the announcements made on January 4 significantly changed the COVID landscape.  

"The reality is that a case could well have occurred had the team remained in Scotland, as other cases have done in Scottish football and across UK sport in the past week.
 
"Celtic has done everything it can to ensure we have in place the very best procedures and protocols. From the outset of the pandemic, Celtic has worked closely with the Scottish Government and Scottish football and we will continue to do so."

Rangers took a huge step towards winning the Scottish Premiership title as Callum McGregor's own goal gave them a 1-0 Old Firm derby win over Celtic.

Steven Gerrard's unbeaten team now lead their fierce rivals by a formidable 19 points at the top of the table.

Celtic still have three games in hand but their hopes of clinching a historic 10th straight title look increasingly slim, with this result piling the pressure on manager Neil Lennon.

Champions Celtic had the better of Saturday's match at Ibrox, but the tables were turned when Nir Bitton was sent off after 62 minutes.

Callum McGregor then inadvertently gave Rangers, who did not register a shot on target in the contest, a priceless winning goal.

Celtic made an excellent start and it took two pivotal saves from goalkeeper Allan McGregor to stop the visitors from going into an early lead.

He impressively got down low to deny Odsonne Edouard, who had not played in the last meeting between the sides, which Rangers won 2-0 in October.

The Rangers keeper then produced an even better fingertip stop to tip a 25-yard shot from Leigh Griffiths that was destined to find the top corner onto the post.

Gerrard brought on Ianis Hagi – who had been dropped from the starting XI in place of Ryan Kent – at half-time, with Kemar Roofe coming off and his side gradually began to improve.

Rangers got a big boost when Bitton was dismissed after wrestling Alfredo Morelos to the ground as the striker attempted to race on to a James Tavernier pass and looked like he had a clear path to goal.

They moved in front after 70 minutes, Joe Aribo flicking a Tavernier onto Callum McGregor, whose arm deflected the ball beyond Vasilios Barkas.

Celtic substitute Mohamed Elyounoussi shot just over but there was no way back for the 10 men, who have now lost three straight league derbies for the first time since 2008.

David Turnbull scored his first Celtic goal as the Hoops overcame Lille 3-2 to end their Europa League campaign on a high note and ease some of the pressure on Neil Lennon.

A dismal run of form has piled the pressure on Celtic boss Lennon and, despite a spirited display from his youthful side, it looked as though they would be extending their winless run to six matches.

Timothy Weah's maiden Lille goal – a fantastic volley from just inside the area – had made it 2-2, cancelling out Callum McGregor's first-half penalty, which came at the end of a frenetic seven-minute flurry in which Christopher Jullien and Jonathan Ikone also netted.

Lille looked well placed to push on and seal a win which would have seen them top Group H when Weah, son of Liberia legend George, struck against his former club, yet Turnbull's neat finish in his first European appearance secured a hard-fought Celtic triumph.

Celtic had the lead after 21 minutes – Julien heading in from Turnbull's fantastic left-wing corner.

Yet their advantage lasted under three minutes, with Yusuf Yazici taking advantage of McGregor's mistake by squaring for Ikone to tuck in.

Domagoj Bradaric's clumsy tackle on birthday boy Jeremie Frimpong gifted Celtic the opportunity to restore their lead, though, as McGregor atoned for his error with a composed finish.

McGregor got lucky when he diverted Cheikh Niasse's cross off Conor Hazard's left-hand post, before Turnbull saw a close-range shot deflected wide at the other end.

But Lille had a second equaliser when Celtic failed to clear a free-kick and Weah lashed in on the volley.

Celtic did not let their heads drop, though, and Turnbull was on hand to sweep home from Kristoffer Ajer's cross with 15 minutes remaining – Isaac Lihadji subsequently squandering a golden chance to snatch a point for Lille.

 

What does it mean? Lille miss out on top spot, Hoops avoid club-low

Celtic, who avoided losing a fourth straight home match in continental competition for the first time, finish bottom of Group H, but with four points – one more than their lowest tally in a European group.

Lille, meanwhile, have to settle for second place, with Milan having overcome Sparta Prague 1-0 to clinch top spot, and potentially an easier draw in the knockout stage.

Turnbull turns on the style

Former Motherwell midfielder Turnbull had stayed on the bench for all five of Celtic’s Europa League matches before Thursday’s clash, but he gave Lennon plenty of food for thought with a superb performance.

Playing in a free role off the striker, Turnbull had four attempts in total and created a joint team-high three chances.

Birthday blues for injured Frimpong

It was a 20th birthday spent in the wars for the versatile Frimpong. After clattering into the hoardings early on and taking a nasty blow to the head, he had to be withdrawn after sustaining an injury while drawing the foul which led to Celtic's penalty.

In his 30 minutes on the pitch, Frimpong had 12 touches, attempted five passes and lost possession six times.

What's next?

Celtic take on Kilmarnock as they aim to get their domestic form back on track, while Lille host Bordeaux in Ligue 1.

Milan sealed their place in the Europa League last 32 after coming from behind to beat Celtic 4-2 in an entertaining Group H game at San Siro on Thursday. 

Stefano Pioli – back in the dugout after missing three games with COVID-19 – saw his side get off to a torrid start, with Tomas Rogic and Odsonne Edouard putting Neil Lennon's struggling Scottish Premiership outfit into an early two-goal lead. 

Milan powered back, though, and restored parity with quickfire goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and Samu Castillejo before the break.

Jens Petter Hauge scored a wonderful goal at the start of the second half and set up substitute Brahim Diaz with eight minutes remaining, with Milan advancing to the knockouts courtesy of Lille's dramatic late comeback for a 2-1 win over Sparta Prague in the group's other game.

Milan started in slapstick fashion and found themselves deservedly two goals down after just 14 minutes.

Rogic took full advantage of Rade Krunic's dismal control from Gianluigi Donnarumma's pass to whip into the bottom-left corner from 18 yards, before Edouard made the most of more woeful defending to clip over the Milan goalkeeper.

The hosts belatedly woke from their slumber and drew level thanks to two goals in the space of two minutes.

Calhanoglu scored his 18th direct free-kick in all competitions since the start of the 2013-14 season – second only to Lionel Messi (36) in Europe's top five leagues in that time – to reduce the deficit, before Castillejo wiped out Celtic's lead with a deflected close-range finish after Ante Rebic superbly teed him up with a backheel.

Hauge put Milan ahead five minutes after the interval, the Norway international skipping past a number of Celtic players before rolling a fine finish beyond Vasilios Barkas from 15 yards.

Donnarumma did well to paw away Ryan Christie's free-kick and Diaz wrapped up the win late on, lifting over Barkas after more impressive work from Hauge as Milan sealed a fifth consecutive triumph against Celtic, who have been victorious in just two of their past 11 games in all competitions.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has been left "hurt" by fan protests, even though he would have understood if the club decided to sack him after a dismal run of form.

The Hoops, who are chasing a 10th straight league title, have managed just two wins from their past 10 matches in all competitions, with a 35-game unbeaten cup run coming to an end with a defeat to Ross County on Sunday.

Lennon's side sit second in the Scottish Premiership, 11 points adrift of Steven Gerrard's Rangers, and the loss to County sparked angry demonstrations from fans outside Celtic Park.

While understanding of the fans' frustrations, Lennon – who has the support of Celtic's board – admitted he has been hit hard by the protests against him and the club.

"On the scenes on Sunday, we're hurt and disappointed," Lennon said in a news conference ahead of Thursday's Europa League clash with Serie A leaders Milan.

"I understand the frustrations of the supporters because we are not in a great run at the minute. But it serves no purpose, particularly for the players.

"I'm old enough and big enough to take criticism and abuse. Some of it is justified and some of it is over the top. That is the role of a manager and that is the responsibility you have to bear.

"They [the players] felt the wrath of the supporters. It surprised some of them, it shook a few of them up. But they want to put things right for them and obviously the club and myself as well."

Lennon was asked if he believed the County defeat would have brought the curtain down on his second spell in charge of the club.

"Not in my heart of hearts, but I could understand if that had been the case," he replied.

"I am very grateful. They are not a board that sack managers for the sake of it. We have had great success. We are going through a tough time, but they don't leave you out on the lurch.

"For 20 years, I have done everything in my power to bring success to the club and the fans. That is not going to change on the run of a bad month or people being upset by my style of management."

Steven Gerrard challenged his Rangers players to follow up their success against Celtic with a meaningful title challenge after winning a second straight Old Firm derby.

Rangers triumphed 2-0 on Saturday thanks to an unlikely double from centre-back Connor Goldson, who scored in each half as a depleted Celtic failed to register a single shot on target.

Having also won the last meeting in December, Gerrard has become the first Rangers manager to win back-to-back away league games over Celtic since March 1997.

As his team bid to prevent their rivals from winning a 10th straight Scottish Premiership, he urged his players to build on their victory.

Asked if the 23-year first proves the gap has closed between the two teams, Gerrard told Sky Sports: "The players are showing more maturity, with time and games we are getting more experienced together.

"It was a really mature performance, but we need more of that from now until the end of the season. We have still got an awful lot of hard work to do and we have respect for the team we are chasing.

"That is going to be our challenge now: can we go the distance?

"It is a big win, of course it is. Always a tough game, big challenge when you come here with a lot of pressure, a lot of anxiety.

"We did not have to play at our maximum and I don't think we were at our fluent best, but we've come here and controlled the game with and without the ball.

"Allan McGregor has not really been tested, so we are really pleased with the performance the players have given.

"We were certainly worthy winners – Celtic threw everything at us. They have started with and brought on really good players that are worth a lot of money but we managed the game.

"We will enjoy the win but there will be no getting carried away. We need to remain humble and on we go."

Last year's win had been Rangers' first over Celtic in the league since 2010 and, after his two goals sealed a second straight triumph, match-winner Goldson also earned the praise of Gerrard.

"I'm shocked but he's certainly capable," Gerrard said of Goldson, who added to his double with seven clearances and two blocks, both tied for game highs.

"His all-round performance was outstanding; he deserves the headlines he is going to get. He led us from the back."

Celtic are now four points behind Rangers but do have a game in hand.

Manager Neil Lennon acknowledged they had struggled without star striker Odsonne Edouard, one of four players missing due to coronavirus-related issues from the international break.

"We have given away two poor goals from our point of view and missed a great chance to equalise [through Mohamed Elyounoussi]," said Lennon, who is also contending with several injuries.

"[Albian] Ajeti and [Leigh] Griffiths are not fully fit, Edouard is out – so three main strikers missing to start with.

"We created good chances in the first half to score but I have to say Rangers defended their box pretty well and that was the difference. We will look at the performance and build for better."

Rangers won a second straight Old Firm derby and moved four points ahead of Celtic in the Scottish Premiership as an unlikely double from Connor Goldson secured a 2-0 victory.

Defender Goldson struck in the ninth minute and added another after the break on Saturday as Steven Gerrard's men made it two straight away league wins over Celtic for the first time in 23 years.

Celtic were without key players like striker Odsonne Edouard but few would have expected Neil Lennon's team not to register a shot on target or have a second-half attempt of any nature until the 85th minute in a miserable outing.

Rangers now hold a decent lead over their fierce rivals at the summit and, while Celtic still have a game in hand, Garrard can reflect on a positive first quarter of the 2020-21 season.

It was a dream start for Rangers when James Tavernier curled in a free-kick from the right and Goldson glanced a header into the far corner from six yards, with goalkeeper Vasilios Barkas unable to keep it out.

Celtic struggled to create many chances of note in the first half but they should have been level soon after the Rangers opener.

Mohamed Elyounoussi capitalised on mistake by Goldson under a long ball, only to send his attempt over the bar from a great opening as he attempted to lob Allan McGregor.

Having made a superb start to the first half, Rangers also struck nine minutes into the second.

Scott Arfield's deflected cross found its way to Goldson, and while the centre-back's initial effort was blocked by Shane Duffy, he composed himself to stab in a shot at the second attempt.

Celtic threw on Albian Ajeti, Leigh Griffiths and Tom Rogic from the bench but barely troubled a Rangers backline that has only conceded three goals in 11 games.

Neil Lennon expects Odsonne Edouard to be in demand after he started the new season with a hat-trick in a 5-1 thrashing of Hamilton, though Celtic intend to do all they can to keep the forward. 

Arsenal, Everton and Leicester City are among the Premier League clubs to be linked with Edouard, who joined Celtic for a reported club-record fee of around £9million in 2018 after a successful season-long loan. 

The 22-year-old hit the ground running with a treble as Celtic began their quest to win a record 10th consecutive Scottish Premier League title with a commanding win on Sunday. 

Lennon is braced for interest in the former Paris Saint-Germain player during the transfer window, but he hopes to keep hold of his prized asset.

Asked about rumoured interest in Edouard, the Celtic boss said: "We can't help that, it's inevitable. But we'll try to stave off any admirers. I'm sure there are plenty out there, but we love having him here and I'm sure he’s enjoying it. 

"He'll be well on the radar of clubs before the start of this season. He had 28 goals up until March last season and I was delighted with that goal return. 

“I was delighted with the goals he got too, he was on the end of things and that pleased me. 

“I was really pleased, he scored great goals. His volume of goals is really pleasing me. 

“They were striker's goals. Normally you associate Odsonne with brilliant individual goals, but there were a few tap-ins and a near-post run. 

"I'm absolutely thrilled and I'm sure he's happy, but we are as a team looking to build on what we've started with."

Neil Lennon hailed Celtic's ninth successive title triumph as "the best" after they were confirmed as Scottish champions once again on Monday.

The Hoops equalled the record for the most title wins in a row after the Premiership season was brought to an end by the Scottish Professional Football League following consultation with the 12 top-flight clubs.

The final standings were calculated on a points-per-game basis, with Celtic having been 13 points clear of Glasgow rivals Rangers when fixtures were halted in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lennon, who was also in charge for the first three championship wins and returned to the club in February last year, declared this success the pick of the bunch.

"To be sitting here now as the manager of the nine in a row, and having played a huge part in that, fills me with so much pride," he told Celtic TV.

"It feels wonderful and I'm so proud of the players. It's an incredible record and to be part of that is something very special, and I think it's thoroughly deserved as well. 

"It's the best, no question it's the best and I've enjoyed the season immensely. I enjoyed the European campaign and winning the League Cup and I enjoyed working with the players every day, I enjoyed working with my staff.

"Whether you look at the first half of the season or the second half of the season, we've played some brilliant football throughout, and then you throw in the European campaign, you throw in the League Cup. A lot of that gets overlooked with all that's been going on around Scottish football of late.

"The style of play pleased me, the amount of goals pleased me, and we had massive contributions from numerous individual players as well."

Celtic manager Neil Lennon says his players are like "caged animals" as they wait for the green light to return to training amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Scottish Premiership has been suspended until further notice following the outbreak, with Celtic holding a 13-point lead over arch rivals Rangers at the summit.

Lennon admits some of his players might be struggling during the enforced absence from football and says the club are keeping a watchful eye on their mental health.

"They're like caged animals," he told BBC Sport. "These are young, fit men who're used to an almost regimented way of living. Their routine is training and playing. All of that is gone. Some of them will be cooking for themselves for the first time in their lives.

"Mentally, the change can put a strain on them. They're used to intensity and suddenly it's not there. We're very aware of the mental [health] side of this. We all need to keep our wellbeing in order.

"As long as I can get out and get some exercise for my own peace of mind then I'm fine. The silence is deafening when you go out for a walk. The place is deserted. We just have to ride it out as best we can. We're all in the same boat."

While understandably missing football, Lennon believes the break could be used as an opportunity for the game to find better ways of connecting with local communities when it returns.

"I'm really missing football," he added. "I'm missing the players, the staff, the games, the colour, the noise, but it's no bad thing to take a moment and appreciate what you've got.

"I think football will mean a lot more to a lot of people when it returns. What I'm seeing now is us going back to our roots, going back to community life with people looking out for each other and maybe we'd gone away from that.

"What's happening is tragic but everybody is pulling together to try to get through it and that's brilliant."

Rangers cut the gap to leaders Celtic down to two points in the Scottish Premiership thanks to a 2-1 victory at their Old Firm rivals on Sunday, despite another red card for Alfredo Morelos.

Nikola Katic's 56th-minute header secured Rangers their first league triumph at Celtic Park in 10 attempts, raising hopes for Steven Gerrard's squad they may finally be able to end Celtic's long run of dominance in the top flight.

While the reigning champions remain at the summit, their Glasgow neighbours have a game in hand as they bid to lift the title for the first time since 2010-11.

The only setback for Gerrard was the late dismissal of Morelos, who was sent off for the seventh time in his Rangers career after picking up a second booking for diving during added time.

Both teams had scored during a crazy nine-minute spell in the first half that saw a missed penalty, a Rangers opener and a fortuitous equaliser from a familiar scorer in these fixtures.

The visitors were on top before Katic presented Celtic the chance to take the lead by holding on to Christopher Jullien's shirt at a corner, the infringement spotted by referee Kevin Clancy.

However, Allan McGregor helped out his team-mate by turning away Ryan Christie's spot kick - and Rangers went ahead soon after when Ryan Kent swept in Borna Barisic's square pass with his left foot.

Celtic had struggled in attack but benefited from a fortunate break to draw level, Callum McGregor's shot going in off Odsonne Edouard, with the deflection - seemingly off an arm - wrongfooting goalkeeper McGregor.

Yet Rangers recovered from the unfortunate setback to retake the lead early in the second half, Barisic again the provider as his corner picked out the run of fellow Croatian Katic.

Steven Davis preserved the visitors' narrow advantage when he headed off the line from Jullien for a second time in the contest, while Morelos - still yet to score against Celtic - received his marching orders too late for the hosts to capitalise on the man advantage.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon relished the opportunity to give European experience to teenagers Karamoko Dembele and Scott Robertson in Thursday's defeat to Cluj.

Dembele, 16, came on as a 72nd-minute substitute in the 2-0 Europa League loss in Romania and became the youngest player to represent Celtic in continental competition.

Debutant Robertson started the match and played the full 90 minutes, with the 18-year-old coming in as one of nine changes to the side that beat Rangers in Sunday's Scottish League Cup final.

Celtic were already assured of top spot in Group E but saw a 12-game winning run in all competitions ended by goals from Andrei Burca and Damjan Djokovic.

"We think very highly of him," Lennon told Celtic TV of Dembele. "I wanted to give him some experience.

"I want to keep him around the team squad because we think he's a real talent. I wanted to give him a little bit of experience at this level.

"Scott Robertson also had a terrific debut. His performance delighted me. I thought it was a superb debut for an 18-year-old to come in and play in that environment so maturely and with a lot of composure."

Explaining his team selection, Lennon added: "The campaign was done and dusted and we’ve already won a trophy so I didn’t want to run the risk of injuries. 

"I wanted to give others some experience and some will need that 90 minutes for the games coming up.

"We're disappointed to lose the game but in the main very pleased with what I got out of it. Some of my players needed the games and needed the 90 minutes.

"Overall, we’ve had an amazing campaign and I'm happy to have used the squad tonight because we have so many important domestic games coming up."

Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster says experiences like Sunday's Scottish League Cup triumph are the reason he returned to the club.

Forster enjoyed four years at Celtic between 2010 and 2014 before joining Premier League side Southampton.

He returned north of the border on loan in August, however, and put in an inspired display at Hampden Park as Celtic overcame bitter rivals Rangers 1-0 to register a 10th consecutive domestic trophy.

The 31-year-old produced a string of saves to frustrate Steven Gerrard's side – the pick of which was a penalty stop from Alfredo Morelos just minutes after Christopher Jullien had put Celtic ahead.

Forster told BBC Scotland: "As long as you win, that's all that matters. We really had to fight and grind it out.

"It was just one of them days; it went my way today. I'm buzzing. There's been days when it's not gone my way, today it has. I can't say how much it means to me.

"I didn't really think about the penalty to be honest. I picked the way it went. I'll take it. That's why I came back, to play in games like this, to win silverware, to play European football."

Celtic boss Neil Lennon hailed the contribution of his keeper and says he is in awe of his side's mentality.

"Fraser Forster was outstanding," he said. "He made some unbelievable saves, world-class saves.

"We didn't get going in the first half, but second half we were better. The mentality of the team is amazing. They've won 10 [domestic trophies] in a row – I don't know how they do it.

"This team just doesn't know when it's beaten. They still dig it out and dig it out. They're amazing.

"We are talking 10 major trophies now in a row. We don't want to give anything up. We weren't great today but we still won - and that's what cup football is all about."

Celtic survived the dismissal of Jeremie Frimpong to claim a 10th consecutive domestic trophy with a 1-0 win over bitter rivals Rangers in the Scottish League Cup final at Hampden Park.

Neil Lennon's side were second best for long periods but a combination of Christopher Jullien's 60th-minute goal and a string of fine saves from Fraser Forster ensured Steven Gerrard's wait for a first piece of silverware in his managerial career goes on.

Celtic looked like they had gift-wrapped Rangers a way back into the game just minutes after Jullien's strike, Frimpong dismissed for hauling down Alfredo Morelos inside the penalty area.

As had been the case throughout the match, however, Forster was equal to the Colombian's effort from 12 yards, making sure Celtic maintained their run of dominance in Scottish football.

Rangers had started with a spring in their step, Connor Goldson heading wide from a corner and Forster superbly pawing away Ryan Jack's swerving 25-yard drive inside the opening 15 minutes.

The Celtic goalkeeper then stood firm to repel Morelos' strike after he had raced away from Kristoffer Ajer, then denied Rangers' leading scorer again after he had been played in behind the Celtic defence.

Rangers continued to look threatening at the start of the second period, Morelos flashing agonisingly across the face of goal after being picked out at the back post.

Those misses came back to haunt Rangers on the hour mark, though, when an unmarked Jullien stole in at the back post to convert Ryan Christie's free-kick to give his side the lead.

Rangers were handed an immediate chance to restore parity with Frimpong’s foul following some slapstick defending from Celtic, but Morelos' weak spot-kick was turned away by Forster.

Substitute Michael Johnston inexplicably fired wide after being played clean through, whil there was still time for one final Morelos miss - the forward dragging narrowly wide deep into stoppage time, as Celtic held on for yet another win in a major final.

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