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Lennon hails ´monumental´ progression

SoccerNews in English Premier League 6 Dec 2012

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Celtic boss Neil Lennon praised his young side after beating Spartak Moscow 2-1 to secure a spot in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Gary Hooper had put his side ahead after 21 minutes by taking advantage of a defensive error, with Ari equalising with a neat finish before half-time.

But nine minutes from time, after Georgios Samaras was felled by Marek Suchy inside the area, Kris Commons smashed home a winning penalty in off the bar to secure the win – and Lennon gushed about the significance of the progression after the game.

“It means the world to me,” Lennon said.

“It’s a privilege to manage this club, but it’s not easy at times. There is a great expectation on you and getting into this group was vitally important for myself, to see where we could go.

“It’s nice to have on your record.”

The Northern Irishman name-checked two of his former mentors, Gordon Strachan and Martin O’Neill, as inspirations for Celtic’s achievement, because commending the achievements of his inexperienced side.

“I’m very proud of the players,” he said. “They have performed a miracle.

“People laughed at me when I said at the start that my target was to qualify.

“No-one gave us a prayer going into this group, but we have qualified and deservedly so. I think you could see the players progressing last year.”

Lennon was seen diverting his gaze away from the pitch when Commons was preparing to take the match-winning spot kick, and he admitted after seeing previous unsuccessful attempts he would change tact for Wednesday night’s crucial penalty.

“I didn’t watch it,” he said. “I turned my back.

“I’ve seen the last couple and we’ve missed them. I just thought I’ll wait for the roar to go up.

“Kris showed great mental strength to take it. I’m sure he was aware of the significance.

“It epitomised his night. I thought he had a fantastic game.”

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