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Stokes sends Trap a message

NEED a striker, Giovanni? Anthony Stokes saved Neil Lennon's blushes with a Europa League double against Rennes last night at the right time to let Ireland's international manager know that he is on a hot scoring streak.

Stokes' form in the SPL has been good and in midweek, he expressed the hope that his international career still has mileage in it.

But he played a straight bat after the game against Rennes and avoided any comments which might further complicate his relationship with Trapattoni.

"The onus is on us now to put a string of games together and that's been the hardest thing for us this season," Stokes admitted.

"We keep on saying we've turned the corner then the following performance hasn't been as good. It's been one step forward, one step back.

"We didn't feel too much pressure, we just went out to try and perform. The team was outstanding from defence right through with everyone playing their part.

"Now we have to focus on Sunday at Motherwell. This was a great performance and hopefully we can take some confidence from this into that match, which is a massive game for us.

"We took our chances and that's what you have to do at this level.

"Things are very intense just now. If you're not winning every game it's going to be like that and you have to get used to it, but nights like this make it all worthwhile."



Frustration

Lennon highlighted his disappointment and frustration with Stokes and strike partner Gary Hooper following the goal-less draw with Hibs on Saturday but both players responded with the goals to see off Rennes 3-1.

"We played well, we defended well, and that has to give us confidence for the games ahead. It was a great performance all round, we played good counter-attacking football and got what we deserved," added Stokes.

"I think we have to take confidence from the performance. We lost a goal but I thought we looked generally secure, we showed a lot of spirit and I thought we were pretty comfortable in the match."

Stokes led the line as the sole striker for 78 minutes and bagged a first-half double before substitute Gary Hooper killed off the French side with a great solo effort just four minutes after replacing James Forrest.

Celtic fans have witnessed too many false dawns this season to read too much into last night's result with second-placed Motherwell on Sunday the next test for Neil Lennon's injury-hit squad.

It looked like another long night was in store for the Celtic support when Kader Mangane headed Rennes in front in the second minute -- the third time Celtic have lost an early goal in Europe this season.

With another new look back four thrown together, plus rare starting slots for Paddy McCourt and Georgios Samaras, the omens were looking bleak until Stokes tucked away two chances in the 15 minutes leading up to the interval.



Spotlight

A hamstring strain to Glenn Loovens saw 17-year-old Marcus Fraser thrown on at half-time but Celtic held firm before Hooper tied up their first Europa League win with a great finish in the 82nd minute.

The spotlight now travels to Motherwell on Saturday with Celtic knowing that they will start the match 15 points behind Rangers if the Ibrox side beat Dundee United tomorrow.

In the other Group I match, Atletico Madrid beat Udinese 4-0 at home to join the Italian side on seven points after four matches.

Celtic's next game is at home to Atletico on November 30 with a win keeping alive their hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stage.


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