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Stokes helps maintain treble charge

Celtic's seemingly inexorable advance on a clean sweep of the Scottish honours continued at Tannadice yesterday as they recovered from a stumbling start to sweep Dundee United aside and set up a Scottish Cup semi-final with either Hearts or St Mirren.

Pat Fenlon's Hibernian will play Aberdeen in other semi-final, with both ties being played at Hampden Park on the weekend of April 14-15.

The game was scoreless at the interval, by which time United had been reduced to 10 men after Robbie Neilson had followed up a foul on Georgios Samaras -- for which he was cautioned -- with a flailing arm into the Greek's face to earn a straight red card.

Once Celtic got in front through a tidy finish from Joe Ledley, the proceedings steadily shifted in their favour. Samaras added to an eventful outing by heading a Charlie Mulgrew free-kick past Dusan Pernis from close range and there was no way back for Peter Houston's players when Ledley released Anthony Stokes for his 20th goal of the season.

Stokes had earlier struck the crossbar when the entire goal was open to him from a James Forrest cutback -- the moment will no doubt become a YouTube favourite -- to the amusement of the Celtic fans, but he had long since been forgiven by the time Scott Brown buried a penalty kick awarded when Samaras was tripped by Sean Dillon in the dying seconds.

Beforehand, a tetchy Neil Lennon explained why Celtic had not staged their customary pre-match media briefing on Friday. "We decided not to hold a press conference because of all the nonsense going on elsewhere -- people accusing our club of trying to put people out of work at Rangers and telling lies about agreements," said the Hoops manager.

"There's a lot of muckraking amongst some hacks. It's in the hands of our legal team and it's probably best not to talk about it." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent