Lazio 1-2 Celtic: Neil Lennon’s side reach Europa League last 32
Olivier Ntcham’s dramatic stoppage-time strike earned Celtic a stunning win over Lazio and a place in the Europa League last 32 with two games to spare.
Serie A’s top scorer Ciro Immobile had given Lazio the lead with an unopposed back-post volley, but James Forrest lashed in his 11th goal of the season just before the break to level.
Neil Lennon’s side had to defend stoutly after the break and looked like they would earn a point until Ntcham ran on to an Odsonne Edouard pass to secure Celtic’s first win in Italy.
It is the second time in two weeks that the Scottish Premiership side have stunned Lazio with a late winner, Christopher Jullien’s header earning victory in Glasgow two weeks ago.
It also means that their games with Rennes at Celtic Park and against Cluj in Romania will now only decide whether they win the group or not.
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Famous victory for Roman lions to savour
When you haven’t ever beaten an Italian side in their own country, the last thing you want to do is give them a helping hand. The concession of a goal inside seven minutes to the predatory instincts of Immobile rendered a tricky task more akin to mission impossible.
Several key Celtic players looked ill at ease in a 3-5-2 formation in which Forrest and Jonny Hayes were deployed as wing-backs and struggled to adapt, not helped by the players in front of them constantly giving the ball away. The Irishman in particular looked like a fish out of water as Lazio pinpointed a perceived weakness in their opponents.
Keeping the deficit at just a single goal for half an hour was a minor triumph as pressure from the impressive Immobile almost led to an own goal when Jullien headed narrowly past Fraser Forster’s left-hand post. There were other moments when a frantic Celtic back line had to do some last ditch defending to keep the marauding hosts out.
In the ancient Colosseum some five miles across the city, the Roman Emperors used to give the ‘thumbs down’ to the gladiators, giving permission to go in for the kill. Thankfully for Celtic, Lazio were far less ruthless and slowly but surely, the visitors found their feet. Twice Mohamed Elyounoussi made threatening advances but failed to find a final product.
And just before the break, a moment of magic that would have graced any arena. The pass from Elyounoussi to Forrest, in behind the Lazio defence. A rocket of a shot into the top right-hand corner of Thomas Strakosha’s net. Wild celebrations from nearly 10,000 visiting fans who hadn’t had anything to get excited about prior to that.
Parity celebrated five minutes before the break, and only preserved by a wonderful save by Forster from a Sergej Milinkovic-Savic header, and then an even better goal-line clearance by Jullien to deny Felipe Caicedo as Lazio tried to hit back straight away. In a frantic minute or two, Marco Parolo then headed over when he could, and probably should, have scored.
A half of two halves, if you will, and a blessed relief for Lennon to get his men in for half-time still on level terms with a very dangerous-looking opponent. Better defensive organisation would surely be required for Celtic to build upon the platform they’d worked so hard to create.
That said, had Edouard taken an early second-half chance, this game could have been completely turned on his head. A dodgy clearance by Strakosha gifted Celtic the ball and when Edouard was played in, the Albanian goalkeeper made amends with a strong save from the French striker’s shot.
More Celtic pressure drew a mistake from Lucas Leiva, which allowed Forrest to break clear. But with Hayes and Edouard screaming for a pass, the Scotland forward fancied a second goal but his effort was blocked by a defender, much to Edouard’s fury.
The dynamic of the match had changed completely; the meek start made by Celtic a distant memory, fading as quickly as the smoke from the pyrotechnics which were on show before a ball was kicked. Uefa have punished Celtic for that before and seem almost certain to do so again.
The fireworks on the field were coming from the yellow-shirted visitors. Some fabulous build-up play involving Christie, McGregor and Forrest left Edouard with the ball inside the Lazio box. However, he couldn’t control it and a most presentable chance was gone in an instant.
It was almost instantly regretted too, as Forster once again kept out a Milinkovic-Savic header with an impressive point-blank save. All of a sudden, Lazio seemed to regain their belief. Substitute Luis Alberto nearly scored straight from a corner; the ball ballooned back off Forster’s near post as Celtic breathed a sizeable sigh of relief.
And then came what felt like ‘the’ chance. Elyounoussi’s pass to Edouard was inch-perfect, inviting the Frenchman to race into the left-hand side of the penalty area. His curling shot slipped agonisingly wide. Would there be a better opportunity all night?
Edouard tried to make amends with a free kick moments later but again was narrowly off target, this time over the crossbar. This was a half full of passion , pride and no little skill from Celtic. A pulsating contest which ebbed first one way and then another with both defences having plenty of work to do to subdue some smart attacking play from both sets of forwards.
No more so than when a great, late chance presented itself for Lazio, only for the powerful left hand of Forster to keep Celtic level.
And then the moment of history. Another Lazio mistake gifted Edouard the ball, and he played in fellow Frenchman Ntcham, whose delicious chip took Celtic through and sent their jubilant fans away into the Roman night delirious.
The first time Celtic have ever won on Italian soil, and only the second time ever they’ve beaten an Italian side away from home. The other time was that famous night in Lisbon in 1967. These Roman lions in Celtic shirt may not be remembered as long, but they’ll savour a famous, famous victory. And rightly so.
Man of the match – Fraser Forster
Immobile and Milinkovic-Savic were standouts for Lazio. Forrest had a good game and scored an excellent goal for Celtic.
But for providing several top-class saves at vital moments – a bit like he did in the last meeting against the Italians at Celtic Park – the award goes to Forster. Celtic deserved to take something from this game and the Englishman was the man who helped deliver it with a wonderful late save, and several more earlier in the match.
- Celtic have recorded three consecutive victories in the Uefa Cup/Europa League for the first time since November 2002, when they won six in a row on their way to the Uefa Cup final
- Forrest netted his fourth goal in his last six appearances in all competitions for Celtic, after scoring only twice in nine games for the club beforehand
- Lazio have only won one of their last eight games in the Europa League (W1 D0 L7), failing to keep a clean sheet on each occasion
- Celtic won away from home against Italian opposition in European competition for the first time ever, with this being their 13th attempt at doing so
- Within the top five European leagues, only Robert Lewandowski (21) has scored more goals across all competitions than Lazio’s Immobile (15) this season.
Match ends, Lazio 1, Celtic 2.
Second Half ends, Lazio 1, Celtic 2.
Goal! Lazio 1, Celtic 2. Olivier Ntcham (Celtic) right footed shot from the right side of the box to the top right corner. Assisted by Odsonne Edouard.
Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Luiz Felipe.
Attempt blocked. Mohamed Elyounoussi (Celtic) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Fraser Forster.
Attempt missed. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio) left footed shot from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Senad Lulic with a cross.
Substitution, Celtic. Moritz Bauer replaces James Forrest.
Attempt missed. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left.
Attempt saved. Luis Alberto (Lazio) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
Attempt blocked. Olivier Ntcham (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Jonny Hayes.
Attempt saved. Felipe Caicedo (Lazio) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Valon Berisha.
Attempt saved. Valon Berisha (Lazio) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
Attempt saved. Odsonne Edouard (Celtic) header from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Foul by Francesco Acerbi (Lazio).
Odsonne Edouard (Celtic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Celtic. Nir Bitton replaces Hatem Elhamed.
Substitution, Lazio. Valon Berisha replaces Denis Vavro.
Attempt missed. Odsonne Edouard (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box is too high from a direct free kick.
Foul by Luiz Felipe (Lazio).
Odsonne Edouard (Celtic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Substitution, Celtic. Olivier Ntcham replaces Ryan Christie.
Attempt missed. Odsonne Edouard (Celtic) right footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Mohamed Elyounoussi with a through ball.
Attempt missed. Manuel Lazzari (Lazio) right footed shot from outside the box is too high.
Corner, Lazio. Conceded by Kristoffer Ajer.
Attempt blocked. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Ciro Immobile.
Felipe Caicedo (Lazio) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Christopher Jullien (Celtic).
Corner, Lazio. Conceded by Hatem Elhamed.
Attempt saved. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Francesco Acerbi.
Attempt blocked. Ciro Immobile (Lazio) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
Attempt missed. Felipe Caicedo (Lazio) header from very close range misses to the left. Assisted by Sergej Milinkovic-Savic with a headed pass.
Foul by Senad Lulic (Lazio).
Ryan Christie (Celtic) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Offside, Lazio. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic tries a through ball, but Ciro Immobile is caught offside.
Substitution, Lazio. Luis Alberto replaces Lucas Leiva.
Substitution, Lazio. Senad Lulic replaces Jony.
Denis Vavro (Lazio) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Odsonne Edouard (Celtic).
Attempt missed. Christopher Jullien (Celtic) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Ryan Christie with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Manuel Lazzari.
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