PARIS, July 13, (AFP): Scottish giants Celtic crashed to a 1-0 Champions League defeat to Lincoln Red Imps with the goal scored by Lee Casciaro, a policeman in his day job.
Manager Brendan Rodgers’ first competitive match in charge was a humiliating affair, with 34-year-old Casciaro inflicting the hammer blow in the 48th minute.
“Surreal, it’s what people dream about, beating a big club like Celtic, we’ve done it here,” the match winner told Sky Sports.
“Getting the winning goal is something that will be with me for the rest of my life,” he added.
“Historic result for our club tonight. A brave performance by our lads has delivered a dream result. Well done to all!” Lincoln tweeted.
This was one of 1967 European champions’ Celtic’s worst ever defeats in the competition, and it left the Hoops counting on turning the second qualifying tie around in the return leg at Parkhead next week.
For Rodgers it was the worst possible start to his Celtic career, the former Liverpool boss having replaced Ronny Deila in May.
Celtic turned up in Gibraltar for their first competitive fixture of the season as overwhelming favourites against their semi-professional opponents who also included a taxi driver, a fireman in their line-up.
“It’s (football) like a hobby for us,” Casciaro said.
Named in honour of English lower-league club Lincoln City, Gibraltar’s Red Imps have dominated the domestic game in recent times, much like Celtic, winning the last 14 league championships.
Casciaro, who works for the Gibraltar Defence Police, author of the decisive goal in Lincoln’s 2-1 win over Andorran outfit Santa Coloma in the first qualifying round last week.
Celtic struggled in the heat and then got caught out by Casciaro, scorer of Gibraltar’s first international goal against Scotland at Hampden in 2015, who scored from 12 yards.
The visitor’s Leigh Griffiths hit the woodwork twice and French striker Moussa Dembele, making his competitive debut on his 20th birthday, had a goal disallowed after the half hour mark.
Celtic, aiming to return to the Champions League group stages for the first time since 2013/2014, had arrived at the Victoria Stadium nestling at the foot of the peninsula’s famous rock unbeaten in their four warm-up matches.
But despite sustained late pressure Lincoln held out for a famous victory in front of a crowd of around 2,000.
Rodgers tried to inject a sense of realism to the topsy turvy outcome.
“There is no embarrassment,” he said.
“It was a tough game in tough conditions. We didn’t take our chances, they took their chance.
“We have seen enough to see that we can get through in the second leg. Of course you are disappointed to lose.
“The result here complicates it a bit for us. We move on to next week.”
Celtic, who have lost in the final play-off round for the past two seasons, will still fancy rescuing he tie on home soil.
But Casciaro for one is not ruling out another upset in Glasgow. “We know it’s going to be completely different at Celtic Park, with 50-60,000 people, but hopefully we can make an upset over there.”
“What just happened? We came we fought we won! @LincolnRedImps nothing is impossible! Bring on Celltic Park” added his brother, shipping agent Kyle, on Twitter.
On his appointment in May Rodgers had listed one of his objectives at Celtic as “making an impact on European football” — Tuesday’s result certainly did that, but not in the way he had ever envisaged.