Hoop dreams of away win come true
Spartak Moscow 2 Celtic 3:Celtic have ended a 26-year wait for an away win in the European Cup after Giorgios Samaras headed home a last-minute Champions League winner against 10-man Spartak Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Celtic took a shock lead after just 12 minutes when Gary Hooper's sublime clipped finish at the nearpost found its way across goal and into the bottom left-hand corner. The lead was overhauled by goals either side of halftime from Spartak forward Emmanuel Emenike but a cynical trip on Hooper in the 63rd minute led to a red card for Juan Insaurralde and changed the game back in Celtic's favour.
Neil Lennon's side took full advantage. A fine cross from the left was stepped over by Samaras before Hooper fed it to James Forrest, who was arriving late at the backpost. The young substitute's shot was well saved by Sergei Pesyakov but the deflection rebounded off Dmitry Kombarov and bac k into the Spartak net. Celtic piled on the pressure from then on and Samaras was the hero in the 90th minute when he rose to glance home the winner.
The win, Celtic's first since on the road in Europe's top competition since they beat Shamrock Rovers in Dublin in 1986, left them top of group of Group G for around three hours, until Barcelona beat Benfica 2-0 away, with goals from Alexis Sanchis and Cesc Fabregas. Next up for Celtic is a double-header against Barca.
“I am probably the proudest man in Europe tonight,” said Lennon afterwards. “I cannot speak highly enough of the players, they were magnificent. They played magnificent football at a very tough venue against an excellent side. They showed great character and fortitude to come back after going behind just after half-time.
“I thought we thoroughly deserved to win it. We didn’t start the game particularly well, we looked a bit nervous and our passing wasn’t there for the first five or 10 minutes but we had a quick break and scored a good goal. I have to say I thought Gary Hooper was world class tonight.
“I thought he was just magnificent and the catalyst for a lot of good things we did tonight. People keep asking me about him playing for England, well I think he showed how good he is tonight. But there were so many good performances, Izaguirre, Ambrose, Wilson, Brown, Samaras came on to a game, Commons got stronger as the game went on, James Forrest came on and gave us pace and quality.
“I think people underestimate Celtic. I don’t think we get the respect we deserve but maybe tonight’s performance might change a few attitudes.”
Celtic have four points from two games but Lennon refused to get carried away with regards their chances of qualifying for the knock-out stages.
He said: “We just have to play Barcelona home and away...
“It is a huge step for the club. It is our first away win in the Champions League so we have broken a record. It is fantastic but there is a lot of football to be played in the group.
“We have two home games and Benfica and Barcelona away so it is still an open group for second place as far as I am concerned. We are still novices in this tournament but a few more performances like that wouldn’t do us any harm at all.
“Every one of the players was a credit to the club tonight.”