As much as tonight may very well be a sore one when you take the context of the game into account – it was actually yet another feather in Neil Lennon’s European away-day cap.
Tonight’s 2-2 draw in France against Ligue 1 heavyweights Lille was a superb result for the Hoops. Perhaps not in the context of the group as we continue to sit three points behind the French side and now five behind AC Milan.
But as a one-off result, and in the context of our season as a whole so far, it’s a massive shot-in-the-arm to go to Lille and produce a performance that threatened to take all three points for long spells.
Lennon has been battered and bruised by criticism over the last couple of weeks, and rightly so at times given some of the performances. But it’s time his European record away from Parkhead was recognised for what it is – superb.
Tonight’s draw means that Celtic have now gone 10 games away from home on the continent since Lennon came back, with only a single defeat to our name.
That defeat was a meaningless 2-0 loss in Cluj, with Celtic having already topped their Europa League group by the time that one was played.
Lennon has held off some decent sides on the continent
And when you look at the list of teams Lennon has managed to go unbeaten against, it really is an impressive list.
Sarajevo (x2), Nomme Kalju, CFR Cluj, AIK, Rennes, Lazio, Riga, and now Lille make up the list of teams who have failed to see off Lennon’s side. Even coming into games in moments like we were tonight, the Hoops boss has still managed to keep the team compact and bag a result.
This is something that has haunted Celtic managers for years. The likes of Gordon Strachan, Tony Mowbray, Ronny Deila, and even Lennon during his first spell all found themselves battered by some bruising away-days in Europe.
Lennon has managed to put a halt to embarrassing performances away from Celtic Park.
Granted, our home displays have certainly been concerning at times. You can’t look at defeats to Cluj, Ferencvaros, and Copenhagen at home and be satisfied with them. But he’s had his memorable home displays too (Rennes, Lazio etc).
But there’s no denying the away days in Europe have gotten substantially better since Lennon came back. It’s why we don’t have to panic after a poor home result anymore – this is a set that can get a result away from Scotland.
Lennon continues to prove, despite his criticism, that he’s cracked our away-day woes on the continent. For that alone, he deserves some real respect.