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Celtic marvel made in Japan

Published: Wednesday 22 November 2006, 18.40CET
Shunsuke Nakamura celebrated a career highlight as his second free-kick against Manchester United FC this season helped Celtic FC to the knockout stage.
by Alex O'Henley
from Glasgow features

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Published: Wednesday 22 November 2006, 18.40CET

Celtic marvel made in Japan

Shunsuke Nakamura celebrated a career highlight as his second free-kick against Manchester United FC this season helped Celtic FC to the knockout stage.

Shunsuke Nakamura and Neil Lennon celebrated career highlights as Celtic FC reached the knockout stages with a memorable 1-0 win against Manchester United FC.

Superb free-kick
A nervy encounter burst into life nine minutes from time when Nakamura curled a 25-metre free-kick into the top corner. It was a replica of his set-piece in the first game at Old Trafford which Celtic lost 3-2, but the Japanese star hailed last night's strike as the greatest moment of his career. "It was definitely the best goal I have ever scored," Nakamura told

'Great pride'
He added: "Edwin van der Sar is one of the best keepers in the world so to beat him twice with free-kicks at Old Trafford and Celtic Park is something which fills me with great pride. To make the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League is a fantastic achievement and this victory will make sure Celtic are big in Japan. That gives me great pride and tops off an incredible night."

Nervous captain
The 36-year-old captain Lennon has been involved in four UEFA Champions League campaigns, three of which have ended in the group stage, and the Northern Irishman thought Celtic's jinx had struck again when United were awarded a penalty late on. However, Louis Saha's effort was saved by Artur Boruc meaning that Nakamura's wonder strike was enough to guarantee at least second place for Gordon Strachan's side in Group F.

'That sick feeling'
"When the penalty was given I got that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach," Lennon told "It's happened many times to us before in Europe and I thought, 'here we go again', but Artur made a brilliant save and he'd made another one just before when Saha thought he was offside. I was speechless after the game but I just hugged him and thanked him. To go from the depths of [losing in the second qualifying round to FC] Artmedia last season to this is just incredible. I'm ecstatic and that's the highlight of my career without a doubt."

'No easy games'
Having achieved the Holy Grail of reaching the last 16, Lennon is now looking to end Celtic's poor away record in the competition by winning their final game against FC København and finishing top of Group F. "It would be nice to break our duck and get a victory on the road," added Lennon. "However, there are no easy games in this competition. We just have to prepare ourselves as well as we can and go for it."

Last updated: 22/11/06 15.40CET

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