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Gibraltar government hails Lincoln Red Imps win over Celtic

Gibraltar's government has congratulated Lincoln Red Imps on their "stunning victory" over Brendan Rodgers' Celtic in Tuesday's Champions League second qualifying round first leg.

Former Liverpool manager Rodgers' first game in charge of Scottish champions Celtic ended in embarrassment as Lee Casciaro's 48th-minute strike gave the Gibraltarian side a famous 1-0 win on the night, although the 1967 European Cup winners still have next Wednesday's second leg in Glasgow to make amends and go through to the final qualifying round before the group stages.

The government's chief minister Fabian Picardo said the win had come "against the odds" and showed the "true Gibraltarian spirit" of the British overseas territory with an area of just 2.6 square miles and population of just over 30,000.

"Tonight's victory demonstrated true Gibraltarian spirit," he said. "We might be small, we might be inexperienced at the international level, but we are not unnerved by our opponents' reputation, nor by the odds against us.

"Without doubt this is the best result since we joined UEFA three years ago and we cannot wait for the return match in Scotland next week."

Picardo was not among the 2,000-strong crowd for the game as he had been in London discussing the recent vote to leave the European Union, but he tweeted his excitement on the final whistle.

Casciaro, a 34-year-old officer in the Gibraltar Defence Police, said he and his teammates would remember their win for the rest of their lives.

Casciaro, who also scored Gibraltar's first competitive international goal against Scotland during the Euro 2016 qualifiers, told Sky Sports: "It's what people dream about since they are a young kid playing in Gibraltar -- beating a big club like Celtic.

"Scoring the winning goal is something I will remember for the rest of my life. I scored for Gibraltar against Scotland but we lost 6-1. Today we won and it's a major achievement for a small club like Lincoln and the whole of Gibraltar.

"This is like a hobby for us. We have a couple of professionals from Spain and a few locals. We train daily around two hours but combine it with the other things we do at the moment. It is surreal and we've done it today."

Lincoln captain Chipolina, a customs officer who was at work less than five hours before kick-off on Tuesday, told local outlet the Olive Press that his side now have a chance of progressing from the second leg next week.

"I think it is the biggest shock in European football when you look at both clubs," Chipolina said.

"Celtic are still a massive club and they are still favourites in the tie, but I don't think anyone thought we would go over to Glasgow with a 1-0 lead. It is just crazy. We will be going over there more confident than we thought and, if miracles can happen again, we will knock Celtic out of the Champions League."

Lincoln Red Imps have won 22 Gibraltar Premier Division titles since being formed in 1976 and have been champions in the last 14 years in succession.

They play at the Victoria Stadium, on Winston Churchill Avenue, in the shadow of the Iberian Peninsula-based territory's famous rock.

Last season they achieved Gibraltar's first ever European competition victory, eliminating Andorran side FC Santa Coloma in the Champions League's first qualifying round, before then losing 3-0 on aggregate to Danish champions FC Midtjylland. This season they progressed past Estonians Flora Tallinn 2-1 on aggregate in the first stage of the competition.

Gibraltar-based Red Casino, which sponsors Celtic's arch-rivals Rangers, also sent congratulations to Lincoln Red Imps for the win.

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan

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