Published Wednesday, 05 December 2012
Gary Hooper celebrates after scoring the first goal against Spartak Moscow. (© Getty)
Striker Gary Hooper opened the scoring in the 21st minute when he capitalised on a mistake by Spartak defender Juan Insaurralde but that lead was cancelled out in the 39th minute by Ari, after good work by the impressive Emmanuel Emenike.
But the Scottish champions were not to be denied and, after defender Marek Suchy conceded a penalty in the 80th minute for a clumsy barge on Georgios Samaras, up stepped Commons to slam the ball in off the bar.
Two minutes from time Spartak midfielder Kim Kallstrom picked a second yellow card for a foul on Commons who was taken off on a stretcher, the only sour note in a momentous night for Neil Lennon's side who finished second in Group G behind Barcelona with 10 points and who are in the knockout stages for the first time since the 2007/08 season.
The Hoops had to fight their way through two qualifying rounds and were then unfancied when drawn alongside the Russian club, Benfica and Barcelona.
But now Lennon and his players can look forward to the Champions League resuming in February, while getting back to defending their Clydesdale Bank Premier League title.
Following Wednesday's game, the Lurgan-born manager has praised the result as a "monumental achievement" and a high point of his career so far.
He said: "It means the world to me as a young manager in my first year in the Champions League to qualify with 10 points, I am very proud of the players, they have performed a miracle.
"People laughed at me when I said at the start that my target was to qualify. No one gave us a prayer going into this group but we have qualified and deservedly so. I think you could see the players progressing last year.
"We have some really talented players who I felt could play at European level. I didn't want them just to be remembered for beating Barcelona but we have beaten Barcelona and qualified for the last-16 and that is a fantastic feather to have in your cap."
Celtic could face Manchester United, Malaga, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke or PSG in the knockout stages.