Neil Lennon hailed a “landmark” night for Celtic after the Scottish champions beat Rennes 3-1 to clinch top spot in their Europa League group for the first time.
The Hoops had already qualified for the last 32 of the competition before the game but their boss had stressed the importance of winning Group E to ensure the possibility of a more favourable draw.
Makeshift centre forward Lewis Morgan, in for the absent Odsonne Edouard, fired the home side ahead in the 22nd minute with attacker Ryan Christie doubling that lead just before the interval.
Second-half substitute Mikey Johnston added a third before Rennes substitute Adrien Hunou headed in a late consolation for the visitors. Lennon’s side moved on to 13 points – the first time they have broken the 10-point barrier – and with Cluj losing 1-0 to Lazio in Rome, top spot is guaranteed for the Hoops before they travel to Romania next month.
“I don’t know how big an achievement it is but it is a landmark night, we have never done it before either in Europa League or Champions League,” said Lennon, who confirmed Edouard missed out with a “niggle” and will be assessed before the trip to Ross County on Sunday.
“That is fantastic and what it means is we can possibly get a better draw for the last 32.
“They had some milestones to achieve tonight. Could they go beyond 10 points, could they win the group, could they win 10 games in Europe and they answered all that.
“Psychologically it wasn’t an easy game because of circumstances but they handled it well.
“Going forward we are playing very well and our goalkeeper had made a double save that was world class. “We could have won the game by more and I am absolutely delighted for the players.
“They keep setting themselves new milestones and they are a fantastic bunch and playing very well at the moment.”
Celtic are unbeaten after winning four and drawing one of their five group matches.
“What pleases me is the 100 per cent record at home and we are unbeaten away,” added the Northern Irishman.
“We won all our games at home and that pleased me. It was important to keep momentum going and we played with freedom and real swagger.
“There was no complacency apart from the last 15 minutes which is totally understandable.”