Knockout victory for Celtic

CELTIC star Kris Commons was spot on as he fired the Parkhead club into the last 16 of the Champions League with a confident penalty kick - and took the club towards another cash jackpot.

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Celtic fans hail their team's performance after the 2-1 win
Celtic fans hail their team's performance after the 2-1 win

The club have already pulled in about £20m from the performances in the group stages and last night's win will be worth another £5m.

On a tense night at a sold-out and noisy Celtic Park, Neil Lennon's team survived a number of scares to progress from a group that many had predicted would be too difficult for the Scottish Premier League champions.

But after Gary Hooper opened the scoring in the 21st minute and Commons struck with 10 minutes left, the club is through to the knockout stages of the tournament for the third time. The draw is on December 20.

The 10 points amassed by Lennon's side equals the record set by Rangers in 1992/93 for the most points gained by a Scottish team in the Champions League group stages.

Group rivals Benfica needed to better Celtic's result, but could manage only a 0-0 draw in Barcelona.

Celtic could be drawn against any of the group winners in the next round, apart from Barcelona who topped Celtic's group. That leaves the potential for an all-British clash with Alex Ferguson's Manchester United.

They could also face one of three German sides in Schalke 04, Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund.

There is also the prospect of a two-legged match with Spanish side Malaga, Paris St-Germain, or Italian giants Juventus.

Neil Lennon hailed the win when he said: "It means a hell of a lot to the club. It is a monumental achievement on our behalf. For the club to be at the big table in the new year is a phenomenal effort. "

Asked if it was the high point of his career, Lennon added: "Yeah, this is the premier event, the toughest of the tough. No-one gave us a prayer going into this group."

Goalscorer Hooper said: "It's a dream come true. The performance was great and we defended better in the second half."

Asked how far Celtic can go in the competition, he added: "You never know. At home we can beat anyone – we showed that against Barca and tonight. We have to take it game by game."

Celtic fans agreed with Hooper that their side will stand a chance whoever they play in the next round.

Karen Park, 31, of Elderslie, who was at the match, said: "Man United would be great and we have beaten them before. A trip to Paris would also be fantastic. But I'm just thrilled we're through."

Michael Higgins, 45, of Shawlands, said: "The atmosphere was excellent. The Russian fans were very noisy too and it made for a special evening.

"I'd like to avoid Man United. The last time we played PSG they annihilated us at Celtic Park, so I would like the chance to get revenge."

stef.lach@heraldandtimes.co.uk

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