By Martin Macdonald
|HOOPS EARN SUPERB VICTORY IN RUSSIA
Celtic ended their Champions League away game hoodoo by coming out 3-2 winners over Spartak Moscow in the Luzhniki Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Glasgow side had previously never won a match away from home in the Champions League proper, but a last minute goal from Georgios Samaras gave Celtic a vital three points in Group G.
Despite an opening ten minutes that saw the visitors under intense pressure from Spartak, the Hoops managed to take the lead with their first attack of the match when Mikael Lustig galloped down the right wing and whipped a superb cross into the middle for Gary Hooper, who got in front of the defender to guide the ball into the far corner.
However, just as Neil Lennon’s side looked to be heading into the break with a deserved lead, the hosts equalised in the 42nd minute when Ari got in behind Kelvin Wilson and cushioned a superb pass from Kim Kallstrom into the six yard box for Emmanuel Emenike, who tapped home.
Things went from bad to worse for Celtic when the hosts struck again just after half time. Demy De Zeeuw’s shot was parried into the path of Ari by Fraser Forster, and the Spartak man picked out Emenike again in the centre of the area, who bundled home from a yard.
The Bhoys were given a huge boost in the 63rd when Juan Manuel Insaurralde was rightfully sent off after hacking down Hooper when the Englishman was through on goal.
This sparked Celtic into life again, and they found the equaliser eight minutes later when substitute James Forrest latched on to a lay-off from Gary Hooper inside the area to pass a shot towards the far corner. The ball eventually cannoned off defender Dmitriy Kombarov and into the Spartak net.
There was only one team from then on who looked like they could find the decisive winning goal, and the Glasgow giants found it in dramatic circumstances in the last minute. Emilio Izaguirre curled a fantastic cross into the area and Samaras showed immense desire to rise highest in the area to guide a header into the bottom right corner.
Next up for Neil Lennon’s side in the Champions League is a trip to the Camp Nou where they will face European giants, Barcelona.
|LENNON BEAMING AFTER CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WIN
Celtic manager Neil Lennon has spoken of his immense pride in his players in the aftermath of his side’s superb 3-2 away victory against Spartak Moscow in the Champions League.
Goals from Gary Hooper, an own goal from Dmitri Kombarov, and a dramatic late goal from Georgios Samras sealed a vital three points for the Hoops in Group G, and the Northern Irish manager could not hide his delight after the result. Speaking to the media after the match, he said:
“I’m the proudest man in Europe tonight.”
“I can’t speak highly enough of the players. 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.”
The Celtic manager also singled out goalscorers Hooper and Samaras for praise, insisting that they had proved their worth at the highest level on Tuesday. He said:
“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.”
“Sammi’s a big player for us and he is a fantastic athlete. 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.”
|CELTS BRUSH ASIDE STEELMEN
Celtic moved to their rightful place at the summit of the Scottish Premier League after successfully defeating Motherwell 2-0 at Fir Park on Saturday afternoon.
Stuart McCall’s men had been unbeaten in the SPL before facing the Hoops, but two goals in the first half ensured a relatively comfortable victory for Celtic.
The Hoops were in control in the early stages, but upped the tempo of their game on the half hour mark and almost took the lead when Kris Commons slipped a superb pass to Hooper inside the six yard box, but before the Englishman could get a shot away, Zaine Francis-Angol slid in with a fantastic last ditch clearance.
However, the breakthrough was eventually made a couple of minutes later when Commons sent a lovely pass over the top of the Motherwell defence for Hooper, who drove forward before coolly slotting in the bottom left corner.
Their lead was doubled just four minutes later when Scott Brown went on a marauding run down the left-hand side and fizzed a cross into the centre, it proved to be too wicked to handle for Motherwell defender Adam Cummins, who slid the ball into his own net to make it 2-0.
The match then became a horror show for Cummins, who gave away a penalty kick and was sent off 10 minutes into the second half when he brought down Commons inside the box. However, Scott Brown failed to punish the hosts as he missed his second successive penalty this season when Darren Randolph guessed the right way to make the save.
Despite the man advantage, Celtic went down a few gears, obviously happy with the comfortable lead they had, and saw out the victory.
|NEXT MATCH: HOOPS WELCOME HEARTS TO PARADISE
Celtic’s next match sees Neil Lennon’s outfit welcome Hearts to Celtic Park in the Scottish Premier League on Sunday afternoon.
The Hoops are currently placed to of the SPL with 14 points taken from seven games, and have a game in hand on their title challengers at the top of the table. Neil Lennon’s side will be buoyed by their fantastic away victory in the Champions League on Tuesday so the atmosphere in Parkhead will certainly be vibrant.
Hearts have started the season in stuttering form and find themselves placed 8th in the division with nine points taken from eight matches. However, the capital club always up their game when taking on the Hoops, so a great match is in store on Sunday.