Celtic manager Neil Lennon buoyed by first group win

Interview - Celtic manager Neil Lennon

Celtic manager Neil Lennon believes qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League is still within reach after defeating Ajax 2-1 in Glasgow.

A James Forrest penalty and Beram Kayal's second-half strike sealed a crucial win for Celtic in the first of a double-header against the Dutch side.

"It leaves us in a very good position," said Lennon. "We'll have to get a result in Amsterdam if we can.

"That's going to be difficult, but it's not beyond us."

A late Lasse Schone strike from distance in the fourth minute of added time handed the Dutch a small consolation, but the win kick-started Celtic's Champions League campaign after losing their opening two matches against Barcelona and AC Milan.

It lifts Lennon's men into third place in Group H with three points while Ajax drop to the foot of the table with only one. Leaders Barca are on seven points following their draw with Milan.

The Scottish champions travel to Amsterdam in two weeks and Lennon insists they have enough confidence to take something from the game.

"We're only two behind Milan now," said Lennon. "Every game is different, you have to take it on its merits.

"Ajax at home in Amsterdam are a formidable side, you can see they had a lot of possession tonight.

"They passed and moved the ball well, but I thought we coped with the majority of stuff they threw at us.

"Second half, we broke very well and we could have seen the game out a bit more comfortably for my liking.

"The group is wide open and it was a massive win in the context of the group."

Lennon praised the composure of Forrest to slot home the opener from the penalty spot on the stroke of half-time after Anthony Stokes had been felled in the penalty area by Stefano Denswil.

"He keeps telling me he's never missed a penalty," said Lennon. "So this morning we had a chat about it and he said he would step up and take it.

Ajax manager Frank de Boer
De Boer's Ajax host Celtic on 6 November

"Obviously Kris Commons was out, but he kept his cool because there was gamesmanship going on with the keeper.

"It set us up very nicely for the second half.

"You've got to give huge credit to the players. This is our 19th competitive game so far - that's half our season - the squad is stretched with injury, players suspended, but there was heroic effort tonight and hopefully we'll get some back for the game in Amsterdam.

"We can get results away from home now but we have to play very well in Amsterdam to get something out of the game. I feel we're capable of doing that.

"If we had got a point tonight, it wouldn't have been the end of the world, but we got the win, so it's wide open again."

Ajax manager Frank de Boer remains confident his side can still get third place in the group.

"Celtic didn't create anything although they scored twice, once with a penalty," he said.

"We dominated the game but only scored once and should have equalised before they got their second.

"It is going to be very hard for us to get second place but I have confidence in the third place.

"We have one point and if we win at home we will be one point ahead of Celtic."

Top Stories