A Decade Since Becoming Boss: Neil Lennon’s Greatest Games In Charge

Neil Lennon took over the Celtic managerial post for the first time, exactly a decade ago. The Irishman went on to secure the job on a permanent basis, before resigning and then returning to the club on a caretaker basis once more, until he secured the position permanently for a second time. It’s been an action packed decade for Lennon, who has won trophies, had touchline bans, received bombs & bullets and experienced touchline attacks. There have been numerous derby victories, European nights, an embarrassing defeat to Ross County, success and failure. In the main he has done a fine job, particularly second time around where he has won all before him, as well as guiding Celtic to the top of their Europa League group for the first time in history.

Here’s how we rank his five greatest games in charge:

5. Spartak Moscow 2-3 Celtic – UCL – 02/10/2012

Celtic had never won away from home in the group stages of a European competition, when they embarked upon the trip to Russia to play Spartak Moscow. All would change that night, as Neil Lennon’s side took the lead through Gary Hooper, then battled back from a 2-1 deficit, to win the game in injury time thanks to a wonderful header by Samaras! It was an extraordinary result, putting Celtic in a great position in a really tough group.

4. Celtic 2-1 Hearts – Scottish Cup – 25/05/2019

On the anniversary of Celtic’s European Cup triumph in Lisbon, Neil Lennon’s team was just one win away from securing a treble-treble. Having taken over the reigns on an interim basis after Brendan Rodgers suddenly departed, Lennon navigated some tricky matches including the Scottish Cup quarter final at Easter Road. Having come through that test, he guided his Celtic side to the final with victory over Aberdeen at Hampden in the semis. On the brink of history, Celtic went a goal behind in the final. However, a brace from Odsonne Edouard handed Celtic an incredible ninth trophy on the bounce. After the match, Neil Lennon was offered the job on a permanent basis for the second time – he had steadied the shame and seen through history.

3. Kilmarnock 3-3 Celtic – SPL – 15/10/2011

Celtic went into this game in poor form, trailing Rangers by a massive margin in the title race. Astonishingly, Lennon’s team went 3-0 down in the first half, the only occasion in which a Celtic side has conceded three goals in the opening 45 minutes, since 2002! Lennon admitted that he considered resigning at half time, and thought his job would be up. However, whatever he said worked wonders because a crazy second 45 saw Celtic hit back with three goals in the last 17 minutes to draw the match. Rangers drew at home to St Mirren that day, and incredibly, the Celts beat Rangers in the New Year derby to go top of the league having overturned a 17 point deficit. This match proved a turning point in the season, saved Lennon’s job and ultimately led us to the title!

2. Lazio 1-2 Celtic – Europa League – 07/11/2019

Celtic failed to qualify for the Champions League after a dreadful home defeat to Cluj. Nevertheless, they started the Europa League campaign excellently by breezing past AIK to qualify, then drawing away at Rennes, before beating Lazio 2-1 at home in the last minute. Lightning struck twice as Celtic, backed by 9000 travelling fans, came from behind in Rome, to win the game in injury time through Olivier Ntcham’s amazing chip. It marked the first time that Celtic had ever won in Italy.

1. Celtic 2-1 Barcelona – UCL – 07/11/2012 

This match speaks for itself. Quite possibly the greatest result in Celtic history, aside from the European Cup final, given the circumstances. Top scorer, Gary Hooper, Skipper, Scott Brown and ever-present, Izzaguirre were all out injured. Adam Matthews had to play at left back, Joe Ledley played in central midfield and Miku played up front. Celtic took the lead, just as they did in the Nou Camp, when Victor Wanyama powered in a header from Charlie Mulgrew’s corner. Lennon then brought on youth team graduate, Tony Watt as a substitute and he scored THAT goal to put Celtic two ahead. Messi pulled one back for the best team in the world, but it was too little too late as Lennon masterminded an unbelievable victory over the greatest club side on the planet, all the while having to rejig his team thanks to injuries. The match was played in front of the best atmosphere that the new Celtic Park has ever seen, with an incredible pre-match tifo display encompassing the whole stadium. It was just a perfect night to mark 125 years of the club’s unbroken existence. As a foot note, the Celtic defence consisted of a right back having to switch sides, Efe Ambrose and Kelvin Wilson at centre back, with Lustig on the right. They were up against Messi, Sanchez and Pedro!

 

 

About Author

Hailing from an Irish background, I grew up in Bournemouth with the good fortune to begin watching Celtic as a young child during the Martin O'Neill era. Still living on the south coast, I have a season ticket at Paradise and also travel to European away matches when possible. At the age of 19, I published my first Celtic book (Our Stories & Our Songs: The Celtic Support). Then, last year, I published my second book (Take Me To Your Paradise: A History Of Celtic-Related Incidents & Events), which is sold in Waterstones and official Celtic FC stores.

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