Scottish Daily Mail - - Europa League - From Back Page

NEIL LEN­NON last night hailed a land­mark night for Celtic after Scot­land’s cham­pi­ons se­cured top spot in their Europa League group. An em­phatic 3-1 win over Rennes saw the Park­head side over­come the pre-match loss of in­jured top scorer Od­sonne Edouard to fin­ish first in a UEFA qual­i­fy­ing group for the first time in 14 at­tempts and en­sure they avoid Cham­pi­ons League drop-outs in the draw for the last 32. Goals from Lewis Mor­gan, Ryan Christie and come­back man Mikey John­ston made it 13 points from a pos­si­ble 15 and ten wins in the same Euro­pean cam­paign for the first time in the club’s his­tory. An­other un­beaten night in Europe for Celtic and Rangers also el­e­vated Scot­land’s club co­ef­fi­cient to new heights of 15th — rais­ing the prospect of two teams en­ter­ing the Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fiers in the 2021/22 sea­son. Thrilled by his side’s dis­play, Len­non said: ‘There were some mile­stones to achieve tonight. We asked the play­ers if they could go

first time, could they win the group, could they win ten games in Europe in a sea­son? They an­swered all those ques­tions. ‘Psy­cho­log­i­cally, it wasn’t easy but they han­dled it very well. We cut Rennes open at times — go­ing for­ward we are play­ing very well. I’m de­lighted for the play­ers. They keep set­ting new mile­stones. ‘I don’t know how much of an achieve­ment it is top­ping the group. But it’s a land­mark night for us be­cause we have never done it be­fore. It means we can maybe get a bet­ter draw in the last 32. ‘What pleases me is the 100-per­cent record at home. That sends out a great mes­sage. It was im­por­tant to keep mo­men­tum go­ing. If you lose that mo­men­tum, it’s hard to switch that on again. ‘They were play­ing with a lot of free­dom tonight, a real swag­ger about them. There was no com­pla­cency about them, apart from in the last 15 min­utes which was un­der­stand­able.’ The only neg­a­tive for Len­non is the in­jury for top scorer Edouard, with the French Un­der21 in­ter­na­tional now a doubt for Sun­day’s Pre­mier­ship clash with Ross County in Ding­wall. ‘He’s got a nig­gle so we didn’t want to take any chances,’ re­vealed Len­non. ‘We’ll see how he is for the week­end. ‘But that per­for­mance tonight with­out Od­sonne shows how well we can play even if we have im­por­tant play­ers miss­ing. It sums up the group at the minute. We’re in a re­ally good place. ‘We’re all re­ally pleased for Lewis Mor­gan as we knew he could do it. He just needs to be­lieve in him­self the way that we be­lieve in him. ‘As re­gards to Od­sonne, we’ll just need to take it day by day with him and see how he is.’ Yet an­other stun­ning night for the Old Firm in Europe means Scot­land have now gate­crashed the top 15 of the club co­ef­fi­cient as things stand, of­fer­ing the prospect of two Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fiers and an ex­tra team in the Europa League the sea­son after next. Len­non ad­mit­ted: ‘It’s great news for the Scot­tish game. Rangers have done fan­tas­ti­cally well in their group as well to take it to the last game. ‘We want to get back up there and get peo­ple talk­ing about us again. I go back to the scenes we saw in Rome and what it meant to the fans and the play­ers. They got a real taste of it then and all of a sud­den it re­ally kicks in — that these are spe­cial nights and you have to make the most of them. ‘You have a long do­mes­tic sea­son where you try to win tro­phies. But the re­ward is Europe. So you want to com­pete and learn from it as a player. ‘So, to be 15th at the minute shows we’ve made re­ally good strides in the last 12 months.’

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