Celtic manager Neil Lennon says beating Kazakh side better than beating Barcelona

Brooks Peck
August 28, 2013

Celtic's 2-0 loss in the first leg of their Champions League playoff against Kazakh champions Shakhter Karagandy was embarrassing. The Scottish double winners were shown up by a club from a country that has never ever reached the Champions League group stage before and gained notoriety for sacrificing a sheep before the match. But after a threat from UEFA, Shakhter refrained from engaging in another animal sacrifice before the second leg and that, combined with Celtic remembering that they were playing Shakhter Karagandy, led to a very different result.

A Kris Commons blast just before halftime gave Celtic hope of a comeback and a Georgios Samaras equalizer just after halftime fully restored their confidence. Then, in the second minute of injury time, James Forrest added a third (video of all goals below) to seal Celtic's place back in the Champions League group stage and the £20 million that comes with it.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon was so excited that he skipped down the touchline and joined the man pile by the corner flag after Forrest scored. After the match, he was still feeling so euphoric that his memory was completely wiped clean. He told Sky Sports:

"This is the greatest night of my footballing life.

"I know it doesn't mean a lot in the footballing world but what we've come through in the last six or seven weeks has been really difficult and to achieve more or less I think the impossible tonight, speaks volumes for the players in that dressing room and my backroom staff - they've been planning this for a long, long time.

"I've just got a huge feeling of relief but a huge feeling of pride, I don't want to go through this again!"

Coming back from 2-0 to reach the Champions League group stage is definitely a wonderful, wonderful achievement...but it was still Shakhter Karagandy. The greatest night of footballing life? In said Champions League group stage last season, he beat Barcelona 2-1 at Celtic Park. It was an even so special that it made Rod Stewart cry. Rod Stewart. A man who has seen some s in his lifetime.

It's also worth noting that Lennon's footballing life includes seven Scottish Premier League titles and 10 domestic cups. So to say that saving face against a Kazakh club was the greatest moment of his footballing life is quite the statement. Rod Stewart might not agree.