When Celtic took on Hearts on Sunday in the Scottish Cup final, it was an ideal opportunity for Neil Lennon to silence the doubters for a while.
Indeed, after the Hoops went 2-0 up it looked like positivity was finally going to be reached at Parkhead.
Ryan Christie sunk a stupendous opener when he curled the ball in from distance and then Odsonne Edouard cheekily found the back of the net from the penalty spot with a panenka.
It left Craig Gordon fuming but he was the more jubilant of the two goalkeepers as the clash went on.
In typical Celtic fashion, they were brushed aside in the second half and conceded two soft goals. Liam Boyce got behind Shane Duffy who was caught out of position to head home and then Stephen Kingsley equalised with just over 20 minutes to go.
Hearts were in the ascendency at this point and should have won the game before it went to extra-time. Josh Ginnelly had two brilliant opportunities but fired both high and wide.
Celtic’s defence were rather comical again and on a day when Lennon needed his senior figures to lead by example, they failed to help out an understandably nervous Conor Hazard.
However, his performance during normal time and then in extra-time proved why he still has work to do to be guaranteed a starting position. He lacked confidence, was clumsy and didn’t look up to the task.
Taking to Twitter, Edinburgh Sport writer Joel Sked said: “Conor Hazard. Three times he’s looked dodgy. The three times the ball has been within 40 yards of the Celtic goal.”
Indeed, the 22-year-old set the tone for a nervy performance after just 14 minutes. Hazard raced out to clear a through ball but completely missed it and allowed Steven Naismith to receive possession.
Fortunately for Hazard, he spurned the opportunity. The ‘keeper struggled all afternoon and his turgid day was summed up for the second and third Hearts goals
He was too weak as he allowed Naismith to bully him to one side which effectively led to a tap in for Kingsley. For the third, he came rushing out and failed to punch the ball before Christophe Berra could get to it. What followed was a tap in for Ginnelly who atoned for his earlier misses.
Celtic have had numerous problems with their goalkeepers this season. Vasilis Barkas made some howlers against AC Milan, while Scott Bain was no better when the Bhoys travelled to Prague in Europe.
This is a situation that should leave Lennon deeply concerned about who plays between the posts.
Forget the fact he saved two penalties from the spot in the shoot-out, Hazard’s contribution in normal time was not good enough. Had those errors not been made, Celtic wouldn’t have even needed penalties to win.
The Hoops now have a huge dilemma to sort out.
AND in other news, Lawwell MUST SELL “outstanding” Celtic ace with “dangerous episodes”…