Wednesday 22 November 2017

Stokes hits hat-trick as fans make point to Griffiths

Celtic 6 Inverness 0

Celtic's Anthony Stokes completes his hat-trick against Inverness Caledonian Thistle from the spot
Celtic's Anthony Stokes completes his hat-trick against Inverness Caledonian Thistle from the spot
Celtic's Leigh Griffiths scores against Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Celtic manager Neil Lennon issues instructions to his side during their match against Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Celtic's Anthony Stokes and Inverness' Danny Williams battle for the ball
Celtic's Adam Matthews takes a shot pastn Inverness' Carl Tremarco

Ronnie Esplin

Anthony Stokes helped himself to a hat-trick as Celtic handed Inverness a thrashing in their Scottish Premiership clash at Parkhead.

The in-form striker grabbed two before the break before scoring his third from the spot early in the second half. Celtic 'keeper Fraser Forster saved an Aaron Doran penalty almost immediately afterwards but Leigh Griffiths, Efe Ambrose and substitute Teemu Pukki, on for Stokes, completed the rout. It was 40 years to the day that the Parkhead club had clinched nine titles in a row under Jock Stein.

Neil Lennon's men had won their third successive title last month and although Rangers are on the way back to the top flight – they will play in the Championship next season as League One champions – there is enough trouble in the Ibrox boardroom to suggest another long run of titles in Glasgow's east end is well under way.

There was a minute's applause before the game in tribute to former Rangers and Scotland defender Sandy Jardine and former Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova who both passed away last week. A series of banners held up by some Celtic fans in the Lisbon Lion stand before the game read: 'A man must be a celt on and off the field otherwise he is of no value to this club'.

The display could have been referring to Griffiths, who is under investigation by police, the Scottish FA and Celtic for allegedly joining Hibernian fans, of which he is one, in singing a song calling former Hearts player Rudi Skacel "a refugee" in a pub before last month's Edinburgh derby.

However, that debate was for another day as the former Wolves forward and his team-mates put the hapless Highlanders to the sword once again, John Hughes' side having lost 5-0 in their last trip to play Celtic.

Stokes' first goal came after 33 minutes of mostly domination when, from a Griffiths corner, he rose to flick his header into the far corner. The game opened up more after that. Ambrose stuck his head in front of a goal-bound drive from Danny Williams before Dean Brill made a decent save from Stokes.

But a minute from the interval Stokes made it 2-0 with some ease when he drove in from eight yards after Kris Commons had missed a fine cross by Griffiths.

Stokes secured the match ball in the 53rd minute after midfielder Stefan Johansen won a penalty when he was squeezed by Garry Warren and Ross Draper, the Ireland striker calmly beating Brill from 12 yards.

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