Lazio 1-2 Celtic: Neil Lennon says win ‘just behind Barcelona’
Celtic’s stunning stoppage-time Europa League win over Lazio in Rome ranks “just behind Barcelona” in his time as the club’s manager, says Neil Lennon.
On the seventh anniversary of their 2-1 Champions League win over Barca, Celtic came from behind to secure a place in the Europa League last 32.
Olivier Ntcham’s 95th-minute strike sealed Celtic’s place in the knockout stages with two group games to spare.
“This team just keeps setting new boundaries,” said Lennon.
“I’m so proud of them, not just for winning the game, but the way they played. The character, the bravery and above all else, real quality.”
Serie A’s top scorer Ciro Immobile had volleyed Lazio into a seventh-minute lead, but James Forrest lashed in his 11th goal of the season just before the break before Ntcham’s late strike.
The win – against a side currently sitting fourth in Serie A – was Celtic’s first in Italy and Lennon picked out Fraser Forster, Christopher Jullien, James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard for special praise.
“My goalkeeper made some great saves, which he is paid to do and he’s done before, and my centre-half was incredible,” said Lennon.
“Edouard had their back three in all sorts of trouble and Forrest came up with a huge goal, he was brilliant.”
Lennon was also glowing in his appraisal of captain Scott Brown, not for his performance in Rome but for his entire Celtic career.
“At 34, he’s playing some of the best football of his career,” the manager said. “People talk about retiring, there’s no way, he’s got so much more to come in the next year to 18 months.
“He’s one of the finest captains in the club’s history. You see his performance tonight, that’s the embodiment of what Scott Brown brings to Celtic.”
Brown himself described the achievement in qualifying after four games as “exceptional”.
“I think a lot of people would’ve written us off early doors with the Champions League elimination, but we’ve came back stronger, fitter and sharper,” he told BBC Scotland.
“It’s the first time any Celtic team has won against an Italian side in Italy so it means a lot. The lads had to dig deep at some points but we used our pace and quality on the counter-attack to win the game.”
‘They have been sensational’ – analysis
Former Scotland forward James McFadden on Radio Scotland
It looked as though it was going to peter out and that Celtic were quite happy with the draw. But a horrendous mistake and what a finish to the game. When Celtic played in Rennes, I thought they had nothing to fear from this group and their performances in the Europa League this season have been sensational.
Former Celtic goalkeeper Pat Bonner on Radio Scotland
There are times we’ve gone away with Celtic with great expectations and it has all fallen flat. Tonight was not one of those occasions. The way Celtic have won this match against a good Italian side in great form was just absolutely brilliant.