NEIL LENNON praised his Celtic team for performing with “a real swagger” as they overcame French resistance in Rennes 3-1 at Parkhead last night.
The triumph ensured the Hoops would complete their Europa League group E campaign in top spot which will give them a seeded place in the last-32 draw which will be made in Nyon on Monday December 16 at midday.
Lennon decided not to take a risk on 14-goal striker Odsonne Edouard who had an injury “niggle” and played winger Lewis Morgan as a makeshift attack leader with James Forrest and Ryan Christie providing support.
The plan worked to perfection with the 23-year-old former St Mirren raider slamming in the opening goal in the 21st minute with a whiplash first-time left-foot strike that zipped beyond the diving Edouard Mendy.
Action man Christie added a second with a low drive from outside the box in first-half stoppage-time while comeback man Mikey Johnston, a 67th-minute substitute for Forrest, claimed the third goal with a precision drive into the far corner seven minutes after his first appearance since the 2-0 win over Rangers at Ibrox on September 2.
A delighted Lennon, speaking to Sky Sports, said: “I don’t know how big an achievement it is, but it is a landmark night, we have never done it before either in Europa League or Champions League.
“That is fantastic and what it means is we can possibly get a better draw for the last 32.
“They had some milestones to achieve tonight. Could they go beyond 10 points, could they win the group, could they win 10 games in Europe and they answered all that.
“What pleases me is the 100 per cent record at home and we are unbeaten away.
“It was important to keep momentum going and we played with freedom and real swagger.
“There was no complacency apart from the last 15 minutes which is totally understandable.”
Celtic had already booked their place in the round of 32 with two games remaining after their 2-1 win over Lazio in Rome earlier in the month.
They bring down the curtain on the section games with a match against Cluj in Romania a week on Thursday – only four days after the Betfred League Cup Final against Rangers at Hampden.