Miracle Win At Celtic Park

NEIL LENNON last night hailed his players as “miracle workers” after watching them shake off an injury crisis to romp to a stunning Europa League win over Rennes.

The Parkhead boss went into this Group I showdown with the French outfit fearing for his future and suffered an early setback when Rennes took the lead inside the first two minutes.

But it was Anthony Stokes to the rescue, as he fired a double to get Celtic in front before half-time then sub Gary Hooper climbed off the bench to seal the win.

The 3-1 victory eliminates Rennes from the running and leaves Lennon’s side trailing joint leaders Udinese and Atletico Madrid by just two points with games against the big two still to come.

Lennon – already forced to piece a starting 11 together after a flurry of casualties – then had to throw on 17-year-old rookie Marcus Fraser at half-time after skipper Glenn Loovens pulled up with a damaged hamstring.

He said: “It was a wonderful team performance. It was a miracle really considering the absentees we’ve had and then also losing Glenn Loovens to injury at half-time.

“But young Marcus Fraser came in and did brilliantly. Some of the players really did their bit for the team tonight – guys like Samaras and Stokes – and Kayal and Wanyama were absolutely amazing in midfield.

“Young Adam Matthews had a stormer at left-back and Majstorovic was a brick wall for us in the second half – anything that came into our box he was on the end of it.

“And then the keeper made some good saves when he needed to. But as a team they showed real belief in themselves and I’m very proud of them tonight.

“I have a team full of kids at the minute but they are all acquitting themselves brilliantly in what has been a difficult period.

The injuries just keep piling up for us. So we had to rely on young players and for them to perform as well as they did against a top-class European side was fantastic.”

Lennon can now look forward to the SPL clash on Sunday at Fir Park knowing his team is showing signs of recovery at the right time. He said: “I would never question their commitment. The only thing I have ever questioned is the consistency.

“We have to be careful now we don’t get too complacent regarding the game on Sunday. There are a lot of tired bodies in there because we’ve played a lot of games recently and that can be demanding for a young team, physically and mentally.

“But we hope to get it right this time. There was more than a few glimpses of what is round the corner. We saw what Samaras can bring to the team. He worked really hard and he took the hits.

“We had a chat with him last night and he has responded to that brilliantly. Kris Commons coming back is a huge boost for us. It was also great to give Paddy McCourt 65 minutes. It will do them the world of good.”