Neil Lennon returns to manage Celtic in the group stages of European competition for the first time in six years, when the Hoops take on Rennes in the Europa League on Thursday.

Lennon has had some great results as Hoops manager in Europe during his first spell as Hoops boss. Everyone mentions the 2-1 win over Barcelona, and understandably so.

That game will go down as one of the most memorable in Celtic’s history. But, just as impressive in a way, was a result which occurred only a month before the Barcelona win, when Celtic defeated Spartak Moscow 3-2 in Russia.

First away win in group stage

(YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/GettyImages)

The win was all the more impressive as it was the Hoops’ first ever away win in the Champions League group stages.

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Celtic played the game without any fear. They took the lead after only 12 minutes thank to Gary Hooper. That is not common for the Hoops in Europe.

Too many times the team have begun games away in Europe timidly, and paid the price by conceding an early goal. That wasn’t the case in this game.

Even better was the response to going 2-1 down. This Celtic team didn’t fold, and James Forrest forced Dmitri Kombarov into scoring an equaliser.

 

Celtic weren’t about to settle for the point though, and with Spartak reduced to 10 men they went for a winner. It came in injury time, as Georgios Samaras headed home Emilio Izaguirre’s cross.

Hoops played with a freedom and belief

(NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/GettyImages)

Celtic played with a freedom and belief in Russia that has been lacking for too long in performances in Europe since.

The game was a personal triumph for Neil Lennon, who managed what the likes of Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan couldn’t do – win away in the Champions League group stages.

Hopefully that freedom and belief comes back into the Celtic side which takes on Rennes. There are a few players who played that night who look set to play in France – Fraser Forster, Scott Brown and James Forrest.

Of course, the same manager is also at the helm, and he is arguably a better manager now than he was in 2012.

They know what it takes to lead Celtic to a win in Europe. Hopefully with Neil Lennon at the helm, history can repeat itself.

 

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