A DISAPPOINTING 12 game winless run on Italian soil that had stretched back 50 years and seen Celtic fail to overcome AC Milan, Fiorentina, Inter, Juventus and Udinese came to an end at long last amid incredible scenes in Rome with this extraordinary victory over Lazio last night.

It looked as if the Scottish champions were, despite recovering after losing an early goal, creating a plethora of scoring chances and dominating long spells of the match in the Stadio Olimpico, going to have to settle for a draw and a point for their efforts.

Yet, Olivier Ntcham, who had come on for Ryan Christie in the second-half, received the ball from Odsonne Edouard charged forward into the Lazio penalty area and chipped over goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha in the fifth and final minute of injury-time to secure them a richly deserved triumph at the very death.

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The 2-1 triumph saw them progress to the last 32 of the Europa League for the third year running with two Group E games remaining. As the players and coaching staff celebrated in front of their fans on the running track that circles the pitch after the final whistle had blown it was tantalising to speculate on how far they can go in the competition this season.

Yes, the Scottish champions rode their luck at times and Fraser Forster, as he had a fortnight earlier came to their rescue on more than one occasion. But they were the better team over the course of the 90 minutes. They could have wrapped up the triumph earlier than they did and possibly even have won by more.

The Parkhead club picked up all three points at the end of what was an enormously entertaining and open encounter. They moved seven ahead of their opponents and nine clear of Rennes who lost to Cluj in Romania. It was, no doubt about it, one of the great European results in their history. And there have been a fair few.

If they can reproduce this level of performance in the knockout rounds then who knows how far they will progress. The last 16? The quarter-finals? Further? Anything seems possible.

Hope sprang eternal for the 9,000-strong travelling support in the Eternal City. They filled out the Curda Sud in the Stadio Olimpico long before kick-off and drowned out the sparse home crowd with their singing throughout the night. Their prayers in the home of the Catholic Church were ultimately answered.

Alas, a group of them set of flares before the match kicked off and thick plumes of smoke soon filled the 70,000 capacity arena. It was just as well a fire engine was on hand in a tunnel underneath the main stand. Another UEFA fine will surely follow. But that prospect did not dampen spirits on a what was joyous evening.

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The home team’s chances of avenging their defeat a fortnight earlier increased when both Ciro Immobile, the Italy striker who is the leading scorer in Serie A this season, and Felipe Caicedo, the Ecuadorian forward who impressed so much last month, were both passed fit to play. They lead the line in a 3-5-2 formation.

Simone Inzaghi’s men gave an early indication of the threat they posed in just the third minute. Jony tested Forster with a wicked dipping volley from outside the penalty box. The keeper did well to get down and palm his attempt away.

Callum McGregor required treatment for a bleeding nose at the side of the park after that passage of play. Lazio landed their first blow of the evening when play resumed. Christopher Jullien failed to connect with a Manuel Lazzari cross from the right wing in the seventh and the ball broke to Immobile in space.

There was only going to be one outcome in that situation. The forward converted the chance clinically with a first time volley to net for 16th time in as many games. The ease with which he was allowed to score at that stage in proceedings would have been troubling for Lennon.

Immobile could have built on Lazio’s lead in the 21st minute. Only a vital and perfectly-timed tackle from Kristoffer Ajer on the penalty spot prevented him from getting his shot away. That seemed to steady Celtic. They looked more comfortable at the back and got forward and threatened to score themselves.

The poor quality of their final ball and the alertness of the home defence prevented them from levelling until finally, eight minutes before half-time, they capitalised on two uncharacteristic mistakes by their hosts. Lazzari dithered and lost possession in the centre of the park and Mohammed Elyounoussi pounced. Francesco Acerbi then failed to cut out a diagonal pass to Forrest.

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The winger still had work to do. He showed admirable composure to rifle beyond Thomas Strakosha from an acute angle with Jony closing in on him. He has not scored many better or important goals in his career.

The Celtic supporters rejoiced. But the treble treble winners could easily have fallen behind on two occasions before the first-half ended. Forster denied Sergej Milinkovic-Savic brilliantly after the midfielder rose and met a Lazzari delivery. Jullien then cleared off his own goal line at a Lazzari corner. It was breathless, exhilarating, compelling entertainment.

Celtic started the second-half strongly and could and really should have taken the lead. Edouard forced a save from Strakosha after being supplied by McGregor, Forrest had a shot blocked by Luis Felipe when Edouard was in space outside him and Elyounoussi went close from long range.

Edouard should have made it 2-1 in the 77th minute after being supplied by Elyounoussi. His shot slid agonisingly past the right post. The French striker then shaved the crossbar with a free-kick.

Lennon took off playmaker Ryan Christie and put on Olivier Ntcham, replaced Hatem Elhamed with Nir Bitton when the right back injured himself and switched Forrest for Moritz Bauer at the death. Forster saved brilliantly from Valon Berisha and Luis Alberto in the final five minutes. Then came the dramatic denouement.