Shakhter game was highlight of year...

IT'S that time of the year when we are encouraged - in my case, by the sports editor - to look back over the past 12 months and pick our top moments.

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James Forrest celebrates after his goal booked Celtic's place in the Group Stage
James Forrest celebrates after his goal booked Celtic's place in the Group Stage

Focusing on Celtic's 2013, there is no doubt the highlights for many would be their appearance in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Even though that did not go the way anyone wanted, with two defeats to Juventus, it was still a marvellous achievement for Neil Lennon and his players to be involved in the knockout rounds of the competition.

However, in my book, the real high point of the year was qualifying for the Group Stage of this season's Champions League.

Given all the upheaval through the summer, when key players were sold and new faces introduced, it was a huge challenge to safely negotiate the two qualifying rounds and the play-off.

The games come so early, but they define the entire season - especially financially - so the pressure is immense.

You could see the relief on Neil's face when they came back from losing 2-0 down in the first leg against Shakhter Karagandy to book their place in the Group Stage.

It was an emotion shared by everyone in the ground as James Forrest banged in the third goal near the end of the second leg.

No other game in 2013 had so much hanging on it, and carried such intense pressure.

By contrast, the low point was the performance in Amsterdam against Ajax which marked the beginning of the end of Celtic's European involvement for this season.

The group became such an anti-climax after what had been a promising start. As everyone at Celtic looks back on 2013, I'm sure they will reflect on a great opportunity missed.


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