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LENNON HAILS CELTIC’S ‘CHARACTER, BRAVERY AND QUALITY’

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NEIL LENNON hailed his History Bhoys as Celtic won on Italian soil for the first time in THIRTEEN attempts with their comeback 2-1 triumph over Lazio in Rome.

The battling performance ensured their appearance in the Europa League last 32 in 2020 with two games – against Rennes and Cluj – still to play.

The Parkhead side fell behind in the seventh minute when international striker Ciro Immobile netted when he was presented with far too much space and time at the far post following a right-wing cross and he left Fraser Forster helpless with a crisp, low drive into the corner of the net.

However, the Hoops gradually fought their way back into the contest and James Forrest equalised with a ferocious angled drive that thundered beyond Thomas Strakosha seven minutes before the interval.

And substitute Olivier Ntcham, a 77th-minute replacement for Ryan Christie, made certain of victory when he raced through on an Odsonne Edouard pass in the fifth minute of stoppage time to chip the winner over the flailing arms of the keeper.

A beaming Lennon, speaking to Sky Sports, said: “I am so happy and proud of the team.

“Not just winning the game, but the way they played the game, the character, the bravery and, above all else, real quality.

END GAME…Neil Lennon and beaten Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi at full-time.

“It was a titanic game again, a brilliant game to watch and it was a game we thoroughly deserved to win.

“To come here and play as good as that; this team keeps setting new boundaries. We have qualified after four games. That is unheard of for Celtic in Europe.

“It is amazing night, not just for me, the players, the board and obviously the magnificent support we had in the stadium tonight.

“It is historic. It is a privilege for me to coach these players and work with my backroom staff who do an unbelievable job behind the scenes.

“We are in a good place at the minute. It is job done as far as qualifying for the new year.

“We have a lot of work to do domestically, but it is an amazing night for the team and the club.”

Since losing 2-1 in Glasgow just over a fortnight ago, Lazio had won three games in a row – including beating AC Milan away from home for the first time in 30 years at the weekend – and Simone Inzaghi’s side began full of confidence.

The Hoops, though, regained their composure after a nervy 15 minutes or so and skipper Scott Brown began to make his mark in the middle of the park.

Christie put in a power of work, as usual, before being replaced by matchwinner Ntcham.

It was an evening at the Olympic Stadium where every Celt stood up to be counted and the manager can be rightly proud of their efforts.

Keeper Forster, who had made a breathtaking save to deny the Italians a stopage-time equaliser at Parkhead in his team’s 2-1 win, performed heroics again on this occasion.

The towering Englishman was called upon to make top saves from Valon Berisha and Luis Alberto before Ntcham made certain in the fading moments.

Celtic are back in domestic action when they face Motherwell at Parkhead on Sunday with a 3pm kick-off.

 

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Editor

Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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