- Ntcham’s stoppage-time strike earned Celtic a stunning win in Rome
- He ran on to an Odsonne Edouard pass to secure Celtic’s first win in Italy
- Ciro Immobile had given Lazio the lead but James Forrest equalised for visitors
- Celtic sealed a place in the Europa League last 32 with two games to spare
Celtic midfielder Olivier Ntcham celebrates after scoring a 95th minute winner against Lazio
Substitute Ntcham chipped the advancing goalkeeper to seal a famous comeback victory
Lazio striker Ciro Immobile took just seven minutes to break the deadlock on Thursday night
Serie A’s top scorer Immobile was left unmarked in the penalty box to volley home
Winger James Forrest equalised for Celtic in the 38th minute with a clinical strike
Forrest smashed a rising, angled strike across the goalkeeper and into the far corner
Forrest sent the the army of 8,000 travelling fans into raptures with his fierce strike
Celtic’s Christopher Jullien cleared the ball off the line after a mistake by Fraser Forster
Celtic fan and music legend Rod Stewart (centre) joined in the chants at the Stadio Olimpico
Fans set off flares despite Celtic being fined twice this season for setting off fireworks by UEFA
For Celtic a night which started badly ended in truly glorious fashion. In hugs, handshakes, history and a place in the last 32 of the Europa League.
Even in the glittering heyday of Jock Stein’s Lisbon Lions Scotland’s champions never won a game on Italian soil. At the 13th time of asking they finally did it in the most dramatic and gutsy fashion.
Lazio: Strakosha, Felipe, Vavro (Berisha 82), Acerbi, Lazzari, Parolo, Lucas (Luis Alberto 58), Milinkovic-Savic, Jony (Lulic 58), Caicedo, Immobile.
Subs Not Used: Patric Gil, Bastos, Guerrieri, Adekanye.
Goals: Immobile 7.
Celtic: Forster, Forrest (Bauer 89), Elhamed (Bitton 83), Jullien, Ajer, Hayes, Christie (Ntcham 77), Brown, McGregor, Edouard, Elyounoussi.
Subs Not Used: Gordon, Taylor, Sinclair, Morgan.
Goals: Forrest 38,Ntcham 90.
Ref Tobias Stieler (Germany).
Make no mistake, an outstanding display in Rome’s gladiatorial Olympic Stadium was a personal triumph for the manager.
A stunning winner from substitute Olivier Ntcham four minutes into added time secured a place in the knock-out stages with two matches to play. A sixth straight away game in Europe without defeat also set a new club record.
In the process Neil Lennon delivered the kind of away performance in Europa Brendan Rodgers always promised but never delivered. The win was more remarkable for an inauspicious start.
Slipping behind to a Ciro Immobile opener after seven minutes a fifth European goal of the campaign from James Forrest restored parity before half-time. Yet again it took some superb goalkeeping from Fraser Forster to deny Valon Berisha and Luis Alberto in the closing minutes.
Not for the first time the former England keeper broke Lazio hearts.
Yet, as Ntcham lifted an angled chip over Thomas Strakosha deep into added on time the joy was unrestrained.
Seven points clear of Lazio with two to play, European football after Christmas is now the mimimum Lennon’s team can achieve.
On nights like this anything seems possible. Lennon opted for a pragmatic approach, switching from 4-2-3-1 to 3-5-2. As his team battled back from an awful start the end justified the means.
Predictably the damage was done by Immobile, Lazio’s top scorer. From Celtic’s point of view it was a poor strike to concede. Winger Manuel Lazzari, a scorer in Glasgow, had the run of the right flank in the opening half hour.
His swinging cross from the touchline into a crowded penalty area skidded off the head of Celtic defender Christopher Jullien and landed at the feet of the man the visitors could least afford to leave unmarked.
With a nonchalant swish of his right boot the striker stroked the ball low into the net from 10 yards. The goal took the wind from the sails of a raucous Celtic travelling support of around 9000 packed into a section of stand behind the goal and Immobile threated to double the lead in 20 minutes when he plucked a high ball out of the air and skipped past Elhamed a little too easily before Ajer stepped in to take the ball from his toe. For half an hour Celtic found this hard going.
They could neither pass the ball or keep hold of it when they did. All of which made the final outcome a source of wild satisfaction.
Throwing Mohammed Elyounoussi up front to support Odsonne Edouard Neil Lennon’s plan began to come together after 37 minutes. Celtic scored with their first and only attempt on goal in the first half.
A stunning strike by James Forrest stemmed from superb work by Mohammed Elyounoussi on the edge of the Lazio area. Pinching the ball off toe of Manuel Lazzari a perfectly weighted pass to Forrest wide on the right crept past the outstretched foot of Francesco Acerbi, the Celtic winger gathering the ball and thumping high into the postage stamp corner for a terrific equalising goal. Make no mistake, Celtic needed their wits about them at times.
Lazio blew threw outstanding chances to regain the lead before half-time. Forster had a strange, contradictory night at times.
He made a fine diving save from a downward header by the coveted midfielder Sergej Malinkovic-Savic but looked less clever for the corner, Christopher Jullien hooking a weak downward header from Felipe Caicedo off the line after the Englishman missed it in completely.
When captain Marco Parolo headed a superb Lazzari cross firmly over the bar from eight yards Celtic breathed again.
Half-time offered a chance to regroup. In contrast with the first half they began the second with purpose and attacking intent. The tone was set minutes after the restart when a Poor clearance from Lazio keeper Thomas Strakosha was headed to the feet of Callum McGregor, the midfielder picking out Edouard.
A skidding firmly struck low shot almost crept under the keeper’s body. The roars of the away supporters reflected a growing air of attacking conviction confidence in the visitors.
They blew a wonderful chance to take the lead minutes later when Jonny Hayes dispossessed a hesitant Lucas Leiva in the Celtic half, three yellow shirts bursting forward at speed on the counter attack.
James Forrest led a three against two charge and had the winger looked up he would have spotted an unmarked Edouard in space.
By taking it himself a terrific opportunity was lost. Nevertheless, Celtic were now playing well. The passing was crisp, the movement a pleasure to watch at times. Bursting forward to play as a winger at one point, Kris Ajer’s cut-back fell an inch or two behind Scott Brown three yards out.
Simone Inzaghe made two changes to try to change the flow of a game where his team were suddenly passive and unsure of themselves. The first impact was a huge penalty claim when Immobile’s shot struck the supporting arm of Christopher Jullien in the area.
With nothing unnatural about the position of his arm, German referee Tobias Stieler was having none of it and he was right. Yet another huge Forster save from a pointblank Milinkovic-Savic header was a sharp reminder that, for all Celtic’s improvement, the game could still go either way.
Celtic missed an outstanding chance to win it with 13 minutes to play. Had Lennon chosen anyone to race on to an Elyounoussi pass and through on goal it would have been Odsonne Edouard.
Opening up his body the Frenchman side footed a glorious opportunity wide of the far post. It was natural then to think the chance of history had gone. Not so fast.
The Frenchman redeemed himself with the pass which offered Ntcham his late, late shot at glory. And Neil Lennon his finest night in Europe since *that* Barca triumph in 2012.