Neil Lennon the proudest man in Europe after Champions League glory

Celtic boss Neil Lennon watched his side beat Spartak Moscow 3-2 in the Luzhniki Stadium to record the clubs first ever away victory in the UEFA Champions League group stages.

It was an impressive performance and a thoroughly deserved victory, so it was no surprise when the Celtic manager declared: “I’m the proudest man in Europe tonight.”

Goals from Gary Hooper, a Sergei Pesyakov own goal and a last-minute Georgios Samaras header gave Celtic a memorable European triumph, and on the back of the point gained in the opening fixture against Benfica, proved again that Celtic deserve their place in this elite tournament.

And the Celtic boss was fulsome in his praise of the men who triumphed in Moscow.

“I can’t speak highly enough of the players,” he said. “They were magnificent. They played magnificent football at a very difficult venue against an excellent side.

“We showed great character and fortitude to comeback after going a goal down just after half-time and I thought we thoroughly deserved the win.”


Hooper’s opening goal came from an impressive counter-attack, with the striker firing home from a superb Mikael Lustig delivery. And the Englishman’s performance was outstanding from start to finish.

“I thought Gary Hooper was world-class tonight,” said Neil Lennon. “People keep asking me about him playing for England and he showed tonight just how good he is. Playing up front himself tonight, he was magnificent and the catalyst for a lot of good things that we did tonight.

“But there were so many superb performances – Izaguirre was magnificent, Ambrose, Wilson, Brown, Samaras came on to a great game. Commons got stronger as the game went on. I thought Lustig was brilliant as well and James Forrest came on and gave us pace.

“I think people under-estimate Celtic. We don’t get the respect we deserve but I think tonight’s result might change a few attitudes now.”

Georgios Samaras once again proved to be the goal hero, heading home a superb Izaguirre cross.

“Sammi’s a big player for us and he is a fantastic athlete,” said Lennon.

“He gets stronger as the game goes on, when the game opens up and the pitch gets a bit more stretched. He hurts the opposition. It was a wonderful ball into the box from Izaguirre and it’s a fantastic header.

“It’s just a huge step for the club psychologically, and for the players. It’s our first away win in the Champions League so we’ve broken the record now, and we’re unbeaten in about seven games in Europe, which is fantastic but there’s a lot of football still to be played in the group – two homes we hope to make the most of and obviously Barcelona and Benfica away.

“It’s still an open group for second place, as far as I’m concerned. We’ll see what the second game brings along and we’ll have a look at the group after that.

“The players were buoyant in the dressing room, but I sat them down and told them just to take a minute and take it all in. We had a great Celtic team in the early part of the Millennium but we couldn’t win away from home but these guys have done it and it is a great achievement.

“There’s still a lot of football to go but we’re progressing. We’re playing some superb football as go along and I’m enjoying it immensely but it’s all about the players and every one of them is a credit to the club tonight.”