Rangers and Celtic prove they can mix it with Europe’s best
Winning feeling: Jullien and Christie celebrate (pic: SNS Group)
FC Porto 1 Rangers 1
Estadio do Dragao
Celtic 2 Lazio 1
Celtic and Rangers showed they have what it takes to make an impact in Europe this season with excellent results.
The Scottish champions left it late in Glasgow to see off Serie A side Lazio, Christopher Jullien heading home an 89th-minute winner, while Alfredo Morelos’ goal saw the the Ibrox outfit return from Porto with a thoroughly deserved point.
The win over the Italians carried Celtic to the top of Group E with seven points at the half-way stage, while Rangers are handily placed on four points alongside FC Porto in Group G, just two adrift of leaders Young Boys.
Making it to the knock-out phase still remains a tough ask, but both teams have laid the foundations for a strong push in the final three group games.
“It’s a great position to be in,” said Celts boss Neil Lennon, who saw his team come from behind to take the spoils.
“It’s so important to win your home games. That, to me, was a Champions League game with the quality that was on show from both sides and the tempo that the game was played at. And Lazio came to really play.
“So for us to get on the positive side of that result was fantastic. Yes, we have seven points now but there is still a lot of work left to be done in the group to ensure that we qualify.
“You could see it’s a learning curve for some players, there’s a bit of naivety in their play. But over the piece to go to- to-toe with Lazio and come away with three points is a huge shot in the arm for the team.”
Since arriving at Rangers, Steven Gerrard has now taken charge of 25 games in Europe, losing just three of them. And he, too, was delighted with what he saw from his players in Portugal against a team which competes regularly in the group stages of the Champions League.
“I’m very proud of the players,” he said. “I thought the performance was outstanding. We at least deserved to take a point.
“That’s the level we need to bottle and find. Certainly if we want to get out of this group. If we can find that level of performance we’ll have a right good chance.
“I’m not going to get carried away here because they are three very difficult games. But that is a big point.
If we can find that level on three occasions I will be very surprised if we don’t get out.”
Next up for Rangers is Porto at Ibrox on 7 November, while Celtic make the trip to Rome to face Lazio on the same night.