James Forrest could scarcely believe Celtic qualifying for the last 32 of the Europa League on Thursday night with two Group E games still remaining.
The Hoops’ 2-1 victory over Lazio in the Stadio Olimpico was not only the club’s first win on Italian soil but it left them top of the section on 10 points to secure European football after Christmas, with fixtures against Rennes at home and Cluj away still to play.
It looked like being a long night for Neil Lennon’s side when they fell behind after seven minutes to a goal from striker Ciro Immobile.
However, the Scottish champions steeled themselves and Forrest deservedly levelled in the 38th minute with a terrific finish.
Then, with seconds remaining of five added minutes, French midfielder Olivier Ntcham, on for Ryan Christie, dinked in the winner for Celtic’s first victory in Italy in 13 attempts.
Forrest told Press Association Sport: “It is unreal. It is a great feeling.
“It was an unbelievable night, one of the best the club and me have had. To be 1-0 down and coming back and obviously scoring a last-minute winner, it is frightening.
“When you seen the draw you knew it was going to be a really tough group. I don’t think anyone could have called it before, who was going to be first or second, so to do it after four games is unbelievable and it is credit to everyone.
“We will be looking forward to the draw and being in Europe after Christmas. You want to play in those games and I think everyone will be buzzing, whoever we get.”
Ntcham’s cleverly-finished winner from an Odsonne Edouard pass on a swift last-gasp counter attack completed the double over a Lazio side who had moved into fourth place in Serie A with three wins in the league since they lost 2-1 at Parkhead last month.
Scotland winger Forrest played down his contribution to the night but is aware of its significance.
Ahead of the Ladbrokes Premiership clash with Motherwell at Parkhead on Sunday, he said: “I was delighted to strike it well and for it go in.
“It got us going and after the goal we really kicked on and played really well.
“Credit to the boys. We came out in the second half and played really well and looked really strong. Everyone gave it their all and put in a great shift.
“Celtic have gone to Italy a few times and not won and since we beat Lazio a few weeks ago they have won three big games. They are a good team so I think it shows how well we have done in the group so far.
“But it is good that even though we have had good results in the group we just keep going, and the confidence levels with everyone in the team is sky high.
“It is a great feeling. It was some night.”
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