Thursday 23 November 2017

Stokes warns fans of harder tests to come


Jamie Holland

Anthony Stokes has been key to Celtic's perfect start to the season, but the Dubliner believes that fans should lace their confidence with some caution ahead of Thursday night's Europa League play-off first-leg home clash against Sion.

Stokes scored in his third successive SPL game as Neil Lennon's Bhoys swept Dundee United aside at Parkhead to make it three wins out of three, but he warned: "It is not always going to be like that."

Before he went off with an ankle injury which leaves him doubtful for the visit of the Swiss side, Gary Hooper opened his account for the season and there were further goals from Ki Sung-yueng, Joe Ledley and substitute James Forrest.

However, unlike most visiting teams to the east end of Glasgow, Dundee United had a go and they could have had one or two more goals to add to Johnny Russell's first-half strike, with manager Peter Houston noting that Celtic 'keeper Lukasz Zaluska was named sponsors' man of the match.


Houston also noted his side's poor defending which made their task impossible and which Stokes may have been alluding to when he warned those supporters who may expect another easy win against Sion.

"It's a good start to the season," said Stokes. "The most important thing was that we got nine points from three games and for me personally it has been going well.

"Scoring five goals and playing well gives your confidence a boost, and we are optimistic about the Sion game.

"We want to go on a good run in Europe and nine points from three games is the best way to be going into the game. But it is not always going to be like that."

Celtic manager Neil Lennon will be aware of the self-perpetuating anxiousness which seems to grip Celtic Park any time the ball is near their penalty area, but he has little to worry about offensively.

The Parkhead squad looks to contain an abundance of goals and Lennon was pleased that they were shared out against United as he recognised Stokes' eye-catching start to the season.

"Anthony is a goalscorer," the former Celtic skipper said. "He looked very, very lively, especially early on in the game. "He is in a good place at the minute so we are hoping that continues for the majority of the season."

Lennon admitted he enjoyed the afternoon. "It was a fantastic result," he said. "Five different scorers, different goals as well and we could have had more.

"We were open at the back at times but to beat Dundee United 5-1, we couldn't ask any more from them."

Lennon is hoping that Hooper's ankle injury is not as bad as first feared after the striker was stretchered off.

The Celtic boss went in to the game without Glenn Loovens, Emilio Izaguirre and Beram Kayal, who were all out through injury. And he watched in dismay in the 63rd minute as Hooper immediately signalled his distress to the bench following a challenge by Paul Dixon just after the Celtic striker had got a shot away.

"This injury seems to be in vogue at the minute," said Lennon who confirmed that Borussia Monchengladbach striker Mohammadou Idrissou was coming to Lennoxtown for a few days training.

"Gary rolled his ankle with the impact from the shot and the challenge, although there was nothing malicious in it," Lennon said. "We will have Gary scanned on Monday and with a bit of luck it will not be as bad as Kayal's. He could be okay for Thursday but I wouldn't like to call it.

"It could be a stretch for Kayal to make Thursday night but you never know. Fingers crossed."

Meanwhile, Maurice Edu grabbed the headlines with a goal and a red card as Rangers defeated Inverness 2-0 in a match which saw both sides reduced to 10 men.


Ross Tokely saw red for the Highlanders and Nikica Jelavic converted the resultant penalty kick before Edu was also dismissed, having netted the rebound after Jelavic was denied with a second spot-kick.

The three points were a major boost for the Scottish champions at a tough venue but they were left facing a defensive crisis when Kyle Bartley -- who last week agreed a second loan spell from Arsenal -- limped out of the action in the first half.

With skipper David Weir still sidelined and Steven Whittaker out with a broken toe, Lee McCulloch was also added to the list of injuries after suffering a knee problem.

Meanwhile, Hearts striker John Sutton believes David Templeton is capable of creating an upset when Tottenham visit Tynecastle in the Europa League on Thursday.

Sutton, who began his career as a trainee at Tottenham but did not make a first-team appearance, scored twice in Saturday's 3-0 win over Aberdeen -- the first made by Templeton -- as Hearts recorded a first SPL win since March.

Tottenham assistant first-team coach Clive Allen was at Tynecastle for the contest and Sutton believes Templeton's wing play will have been noted down as a threat.

Irish Independent

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