Stokes sees Celtic into final

PA Sport
Anthony Stokes (left)

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Anthony Stokes (left)

Celtic will meet Kilmarnock in the Scottish Communities League Cup final after Anthony Stokes' second-half double helped them to a 3-1 win over battling Falkirk in their semi-final at Hampden.

Skipper Scott Brown fired the Hoops into the lead from the spot in the 26th minute after Bairns skipper Darren Dods had wrestled with Thomas Rogne at a corner, but 17-year-old Falkirk midfielder Jay Fulton dramatically levelled for the First Division side before the break.

But Stokes' free-kick from 25 yards in the 56th minute gave Bairns keeper Michael McGovern no chance, and he tapped in from a Gary Hooper pass with five minutes remaining to make sure Celtic return to the national stadium on March 18.

In the 11th minute the Bairns were let off the hook with what appeared to be a contentious offside decision in their favour. Brown's right-footed drive from the edge of the box was tipped onto the post by Bairns keeper McGovern before Hooper rattled the rebound in to the net, only to turn and see the flag up.

Then, from a Charlie Mulgrew corner, Rogne crashed a header off the post, which perhaps led Dods to get too close in the 26th minute when referee Euan Norris pointed to the spot and booked the Bairns skipper for wrestling Rogne to the ground at a Mulgrew corner.

There was little cause for complaint from Steven Pressley's side and Brown, who had scored last week at St Mirren, stepped up to slam the penalty past McGovern.

Celtic looked comfortable but there was even more drama in the 39th minute when Fulton drew Falkirk level with a fine goal. Midfielder David Weatherston turned inside Celtic defender Cha Du-ri on the left and passed inside to Kallum Higginbotham who switched to Fulton who was running in to the box and he knocked the ball low past Fraser Forster.

In the 55th minute Rogne hit woodwork again, crashing a close-range shot off the bar from a Mulgrew corner which the Bairns had failed to deal with properly. However, that only delayed the Hoops' second goal which came a minute later when striker Stokes curled a wonderful free-kick from 25 yards over the defensive wall and past the helpless McGovern.

With one goal in it and Higginbotham at the top of his game, the First Division side always had a chance and in the 78th minute Forster made a fine double save following a corner, first from Dods and then from Stewart Murdoch.

However, there was to be no shock and in the 85th minute Celtic's final appointment was booked when Hooper got away from Dods on the right-hand side of the box and set up Stokes who knocked in from barely a yard out.

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