Lennon joy as Bhoys snatch a last 16 place

CELTIC 2
SPARTAK MOSCOW 1

CELTIC manager Neil Lennon last night hailed a “monumental achievement” after his side defeated Spartak Moscow with a late penalty to qualify for the Champions League last 16 for the first time in five years.

The Bhoys, who progressed as Benfica could only draw 0-0 at Barcelona, went ahead when Gary Hooper pounced on an error by defender Juan Insaurralde to fire in from the edge of the area.

Spartak equalised approaching half-time when Brazilian striker Ari chipped over Fraser Forster from an acute angle.

However as full-time approached Georgios Samaras was brought down in the box and Kris Commons crashed in the penalty off the bar.

“The players have been magnificent. It is a monumental achievement on their behalf. For the club to be at the big table in the New Year, and to get 10 points, is phenomenal,” said Lennon.

“I thought we did not play well in the first half, got a break with the goal. But second half we were a lot better, created good chances; we had to go for it and thankfully it came through for us.

“The spirit is fantastic. We’ve got some quality players, who knows where it can take us.

“This campaign has been a great learning process and these young lads have grown as its gone on.”

The 41-year-old ranked his side’s qualification is the highlight of his career, adding: “Yeah, this is the premier event, the toughest of the tough. No-one gave us a prayer going into this group."