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Lennon hopeful of drawing Real Madrid

Celtic manager Neil Lennon said he was emotionally drained after watching his side come back from the brink to secure their place in the Champions League group stage with a 3-2 aggregate win over Shakhter Karagandy on Wednesday.

James Forrest celebrates Celtic's dramatic late winner.
Celtic squeezed through to the Champions League proper with a 3-2 aggregate win.

Trailing 2-0 from the first leg in Khazakhstan, the odds appeared to be stacked against Lennon's men pulling off the comeback -- but goals from Kris Commons, Georgios Samaras and a last-gasp winner from James Forrest sent the Celtic hordes into raptures.

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Lennon hailed his side's determination and said he was hopeful of meeting Carlo Ancelotti's Real Madrid in the group phase.

"This is the greatest night of my footballing life," the jubilant manager told Sky Sports. "I know it doesn't mean too much to most of the football world, but we have achieved the impossible tonight and there is a huge feeling of relief and pride. I never want to go through this again.

"We are going to the big show again, and this is a good answer to what has been said about this team in recent days. People turned on us very quickly in a summer when we have lost key players, but this was the answer to all of them.

"I would like to get Real Madrid in the draw now. To take Celtic there would be special, but I really don't mind who we get. The main thing is we are there."

Shakhter nearly snatched a vital away goal when they hit the crossbar in the second half, but Lennon reserved special praise for Irishman Anthony Stokes, who set up the late winner with a moment of magic down the wing.

"There is a section of our support that don't take to Anthony and I don't know why," added Lennon. "He is a special player, and he confirmed that tonight. He was not alone in being a hero. We had heroes all over the pitch, and now I need a day off to recover from all this."

Lennon went on to confirm that Celtic's passage to the Champions League group stages should boost his hopes of adding to his squad ahead of Monday's transfer deadline.


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