Saturday 23 September 2017

Anthony Stokes welcomes Old Firm derby return

Anthony Stokes of Celtic and Fraser Aird of Rangers compete for the ball during the Scottish League Cup Semi-Final between Celtic and Rangers at Hampden Park.
Anthony Stokes of Celtic and Fraser Aird of Rangers compete for the ball during the Scottish League Cup Semi-Final between Celtic and Rangers at Hampden Park.

Andy Newport

Celtic striker Anthony Stokes enjoyed the resumption of hostilities with Rangers and hopes to go to battle with the Ibrox men again next season.

The first Old Firm derby in three years saw the Parkhead side claim a comfortable 2-0 success as they set up a QTS Scottish League Cup final meeting with Dundee United on March 15.

The game was marred by sectarian singing from the Light Blues support, while some Hoops supporters let off flares and smoke bombs and also unveiled a banner mocking their foes' financial problems.

But Irishman Stokes loved every minute of it.

"I've said in the past, having Rangers back in the top flight would be good for Scottish football. Not only for us as competition and to push us on, but for the rest of the clubs with the financial benefit that it brings," he said.

"I just think it benefits the whole country. These games are special occasions. Playing with Celtic you always get these great European nights but nothing can compare with the passion that goes into an Old Firm game.

"So it's always good to have it back."

Leigh Griffiths gave Ronny Deila's men an early lead before Kris Commons crashed home a superb second. Stefan Johansen was denied a third goal when Steve Simonsen pulled off a fine block just before the break.

Stokes claims Rangers were lucky Johansen did not punish them further - and then spark an even bigger victory.

He said: "The atmosphere was outstanding and there wasn't too much niggle to the game.

"Stefan Johansen had a great chance at 2-0. If that had made it three before half-time it could have been completely different."

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