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Stokes strikes as slick Celts hit semis

CELTIC finally turned on the style last night to destroy Hibernian with four second- half goals to book their place in the semi-finals of the League Cup alongside Kilmarnock, St Mirren and Ayr United.

Neil Lennon's side are favourites to lift the first trophy of the season in March, but at half-time there were plenty of question marks about another dodgy defensive showing.

Daniel Majstorovic couldn't do much about a fifth-minute own goal when an Ivan Sproule shot cannoned off him into the net and, led by 10-goal Garry O'Connor, the homeside repeatedly cut Celtic open.

Lennon was forced to deliver another blistering half-time teamtalk, which had the desired effect as a double from James Forrest, a header from Anthony Stokes and a Gary Hooper solo effort put Celtic out of reach with 20 minutes left.

"I got everything I asked for from the team," Lennon said about the second-half display. "That's the semi-final put to bed and we can concentrate on the league.

"We have Hibs at the weekend in the SPL and we won't be complacent, but if we play like that we will be hard to stop.

"The players should take a lot from the second half. I said to them that it must be a great feeling because you are sensational to watch and I hope they hold on to that feeling and carry it on for the next few months.

"They showed more quality than they did when they came back at Kilmarnock so there was a lot to be pleased about.

"I felt that we played a lot better than we did at Kilmarnock, I was delighted to see Stokes and Hooper get on the scoresheet."

Stokes and Hooper both missed good first-half chances to equalise but looked to be getting back towards last season's partnership after the break.

The relief on Hooper's face as he raced through before finding the net was obvious, with Stokes delighted and surprised by the source of his goal.

After failing to get his head to a first-half chance and seeing the ball bounce wide of the post, he tweeted: "Great result 2nite! Can't believe I scored a header, lol!"