• Champions League

Lennon lauds Celtic's 'phenomenal effort'

ESPN staff
December 6, 2012

Celtic manager Neil Lennon hailed a "monumental achievement'' by his side after they reached the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Celtic beat Spartak Moscow 2-1 at Parkhead to qualify from Group G after Benfica could only draw 0-0 at Barcelona.

"It means a hell of a lot to the club,'' Lennon told Sky Sports 3. "It is a monumental achievement on our behalf. For the whole club to be at the big table in the new year is a phenomenal effort. To get 10 points is a phenomenal effort.

"I thought we did not play well in the first half, got a break with the goal and then we were slack for their 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.''

Asked whether this was the high point of his career, Lennon added: "Yeah, this is the premier event, the toughest of the tough. No-one gave us a prayer going into this group.

"It means the world to me as a young manager, in my first year in the Champions League, to qualify with 10 points. I am very proud of the players. People laughed at me when I said at the start that my target was to qualify.

"We have some really talented players who I felt could play at European level. I didn't want them just to be remembered for beating Barcelona but we have beaten Barcelona and qualified for the last 16,and that is a fantastic feather to have in your cap.''

He said life would be tough in the last 16, but added: "We are there, we are going to enjoy it and we want to progress as far as we can in the competition. Who knows where it can take you?"

Gary Hooper, who opened the scoring in the first half, said: "It's a dream come true. The performance was great, and we defended better in the second half.''

Asked how far Celtic could go in the competition, Hooper added: "You never know. At home we can beat anyone - we showed that against Barca and tonight. We have to take it game by game."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.