Hibs boss Neil Lennon has hit out at UEFA after being hit by another touchline ban which will see him sit in the stand again next week as his side bid to reach the third qualifying round of the Europa League.
Lennon was banned for five European matches but had it reduced to four on appeal after he was sent off during his first match in charge of Hibs against Danish outfit Brondby.
Last night’s dramatic 3-2 win over Greek outfit Asteras Tripolis should have seen that sentence spent but Lennon has now been hammered again and fined 5000 euros for allegedly coaching as Hibs thumped Faroese minnows NSI Runavik 6-1 at Easter Road.
Lennon described the decision as “scandalous”, revealing the UEFA delegate at that game, Dutchman Martin Sturkenboom, had left him mystified, accusing him of having made a “substitution signal” to the home dug-out.
Lennon said: “We were 5-0 up at the time, the game was finished. It did not have any bearing on the result. I can’t get my head around it at all. I was up in the directors’ box because of my ban and it is impossible to coach from up there. He told me I couldn’t make signals and that he would report me. It’s incredible.”
Now Lennon will have to watch from the stand again next Thursday, looking for more of the “tremendous character” his players showed when, having gone down to a double strike from Georgios Kyriakopolous, they staged a stunning second-half fightback.
Goals from Efe Ambrose and David Gray hauled Hibs level and three minutes into added-on time Swiss hitman Flo Kamberi was on hand to tap home the winner after Greek goalkeeper Giorgos Athanasiadis diverted Martin Boyle’s shot into his path.
Lennon said: “They could easily have given up the ghost but they should have won by more, we missed some easy chances. But to have come from two goals down – the manner in which we conceded them was disappointing – showed tremendous character.
“We turned the tie around, it is now in the balance and could go either way.”
Given the situation his side were in, Lennon admitted he’d have settled for the draw but added: “To score three goals against a very good side is pleasing. The last-minute goal is massive for us. I’d have taken 2-2 under the circumstances but psychologically it will have given us a lift.”
Asteras coach Savvas Pantelidis claimed his players tired badly in the second half, given this was their first competitive match of the season but believes they can still make the next round and a probable showdown with Norwegian outfit Molde.
He said: “We played well in the first half, we weren’t in any danger. But in the second you could clearly see the physical difficulties we had. Hibs were more ready for this game. It showed and with the help of their fans they managed to turn the game around. We knew what we had to do to not find ourselves under such pressure but we were unable at this time to do it. No we have a week to change some things and we hope to be the ones celebrating getting to the next round.”