Monday 18 December 2017

Hoops in good elf'

Stokes eyeing Euro progress after grabbing brace in league opener

Anthony Stokes of Celtic celebrates with manager Neil Lennon. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
Anthony Stokes of Celtic celebrates with manager Neil Lennon. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

ANTHONY STOKES believes Celtic's opening day Scottish Premiership win over Ross County on Saturday has set them up nicely for Wednesday's crucial Champions League qualifier against Elfsborg.

The 25-year-old Irishman grabbed a double against the Staggies as the champions came back from conceding a second-minute goal to debutant Darren Maatsen.

It was a powerful performance by Neil Lennon's side, although a long list of missed chances led to Stokes' 87th-minute winner being welcomed with some relief by the home fans and their boss. Celtic are leading Elfsborg 1-0 from the third qualifying round first-leg in Glasgow and the former Hibernian and Sunderland striker insists they are in good fettle as they look to progress into the play-offs in Sweden.

"It is probably the best we have played since we came back from pre-season after such a short off-season," he said.

"The goal probably woke us up and we got at them for the rest of the game and made plenty of chances but we just didn't take them.

"For long parts of the game I thought we might not get the goal but we kept at it and we broke them down eventually and when you win games it breeds confidence.

"There are a couple of us still getting up to 100 per cent so it was a good work out against Ross County and we are looking forward to Wednesday."

Gary Hooper's move to Norwich means the onus has moved on to Stokes, at least until Lennon brings in another striker.

The Dubliner was pleased to get up and running in the scoring stakes on the first day of the season.

He said: "The most important thing was the win but it is always good for the confidence to get off the mark, so I am delighted.


"I have always said that you want to get over 20 goals every season and that's my target but I want to score as many as possible.

"It's not like I want to get to 20 or 25, I want to push on this season and score as many as possible. It is simple as that."

Ross County manager Derek Adams was not too perturbed by the defeat. He said: "You are always disappointed (to lose) but it is not easy playing at Celtic Park on the opening day of the season.

"You are playing against Celtic, the best team in Scotland at this moment in time and they are the ones who have all the talent.

"If I was the Celtic manager, I would hope we would have chances and beat Ross County."

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