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Thursday 21 November 2019

Teenage kicks and tricks as Dembele (16) wows Celtic crowd

Celtic 2 Hearts 1

Celtic sensation Karamoko Dembele
Celtic sensation Karamoko Dembele

Neil Lennon believes Celtic fans were given a "glimpse of the future" when 16-year-old Karamoko Dembele made his debut in the 2-1 win over Hearts at Parkhead.

Dembele replaced the injured Oliver Burke for the second half, with the game at 1-1 after fringe player Mikey Johnston's early opener had been cancelled out by Jake Mulraney.

Dembele went through his repertoire of tricks to the delight of the home fans, although it was 20-year-old Johnston who drove in the winner, giving the Hoops the win which meant they finished the season nine points ahead of Rangers, before they were presented with the Scottish Premiership trophy for the eighth successive season.

Interim boss Lennon said of Dembele's cameo: "He was great to watch. He is the type of player that you want at Celtic.

"He gets the crowd off their feet with their football intelligence.

"Everyone talks about the skill, but his football intelligence was very good.

"I was delighted for him, Obviously we need to keep a lid on it, but it's great that the fans have seen the glimpse of the future.

"It was a great time, end of the season, 45 minutes.

"The kid is 16, we know how talented he is and we just want to develop him in the right way.

"He has been training with the first team and he has had a very good season with the development team and I had no hesitation giving him 45 minutes. There was always a plan to give him some game time, but with Burkey going off we thought we should throw him in there and let him play."

Lennon made seven changes to the side which lost 2-0 against Rangers at Ibrox last week, with several regulars rested to get over niggles and knocks for the Scottish Cup final against Hearts at Hampden Park next week, where the Hoops can clinch an unprecedented treble treble.

He said: "Filip Benkovic, Nir Bitton, Olivier Ntcham, Scott Sinclair needed game time and it was important that they played for match sharpness and fitness and all the things you get from the game today, bearing in mind that they could be involved in the final next week."

Belgian defender Dedryck Boyata has left Celtic for German side Hertha Berlin on what is described as a long-term deal.

The 28-year-old was available on a free transfer with his contract at the Glasgow outfit expiring this summer.

Winger James Forrest (27) has scooped a player of the year double.

Forrest has been named Scottish Football Writers' player of the year after earlier winning the PFA Scotland award.

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