Stokes double keeps embattled Celtic in qualification hunt
Published 04/11/2011 | 05:00
The outcome of Sunday's meeting with Motherwell at Fir Park is of far greater significance to Neil Lennon than this Europa League victory over a Rennes side -- reduced to 10 men when Yan M'Vila was sent off for a late foul on Kris Commons -- yet there was a resolve about this Celtic performance that offers plausible hope that Lennon's players can revive flagging challenges at home and abroad.
The match was preceded by what seems now to be the inevitable gloomy tidings about a Celtic player, in this case Mark Wilson, who underwent an arthroscopy, the outcome of which means that he will be out for three months.
The home crowd's early vocal dismay came as Julien Feret's corner kick was met by Kader Mangane with a full-blooded header which Daniel Majstorovic did not see coming as it swept into the roof of the net.
Celtic's body language immediately assumed a familiar abject aspect. Despite the general apprehension, Celtic summoned their battered pride and made themselves felt in challenges, to such effect that they began to dominate the key exchanges to draw level after half an hour.
The impressive James Forrest struck a 25-yard drive which Bernard Costil parried but could not grasp -- the rebound spun out to Anthony Stokes, who drove home with gusto.
To add to Lennon's satisfaction, Georgios Samaras set Stokes up for the goal that put Celtic ahead. It was route one but satisfying nonetheless. Fraser Forster booted the ball into the Rennes half, where Samaras rose to knock a header on and Stokes finished sweetly.
Despite having to replace Glenn Loovens with the 17-year-old debutant Marcus Fraser at half-time, Celtic were able to hold Rennes at bay. They put the game to bed eight minutes from time when Gary Hooper -- a late substitute for Forrest -- set Samaras free on the left and made ground into the box for the return pass to shoot beyond Costil. (© Daily Telegraph, London)