Stokes inspires Celtic’s double stroll
Two assists from Irishman as Neil Lennon’s side deny Pat Fenlon and Hibs at Hampden Park
Celtic’s captain Scott Brown lifts the trophy following their Scottish Cup Final win over Hibernian at Hampden Park. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters
Celtic’s Scott Brown pulls a shirt over the head of Emilio Izaguiree after the Scottish Cup final win over Hibernian at Hampden. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Lennon was so relaxed he barely wandered into his technical area, preferrring to sit back and enjoy watching Scott Brown control midfield and Anthony Stokes threaten almost every time he touched the ball.
Appropriately, Stokes created the first two goals for Gary Hooper, while Joe Ledley’s third emphasised Celtic’s almost embarrassing superiority over Pat Fenlon’s side as they won the trophy for a record 35th time.
“It feels amazing,” said Lennon. “But my players were excellent, they controlled the game and scored three very special goals. Hooper’s a master and Stokes probably had his best game in a Celtic shirt. To win the double as a player was great, to win it as a manager is just fantastic. This is a very good side and I hope they get the respect they deserve.”
Hibs last won a Scottish Cup when they beat Celtic in 1902 but hopes that 111 years of hurt might be about to end were initially high. Fraser Forster did wonderfully well to repel Eoin Doyle’s header following Ryan McGovern’s left-wing delivery and Tom Taiwo volleyed narrowly over the bar.
It was another volley, from a Celtic player this time, that broke the deadlock after only eight minutes. So brightly had Hibs begun that Lennon’s side were mounting their first real attack but Stokes crossed from the left and Hooper dodged Paul Hanlon before hooking beyond Ben Williams.
With Brown increasingly dictating midfield, Fenlon’s players were suddenly up against it. As Hooper headed Celtic two up, vivid flashbacks of last year’s 5-1 Scottish Cup final thrashing by Hearts probably intruded on the minds of those who had travelled from Edinburgh.
Once again the goal was created by a left-footed, left-wing Stokes cross. Not for the first time two of Fenlon’s defenders had been bisected by Hooper’s leap but the quality of Stokes’s dispatch – plus a subsequent right -foot shot that whizzed a yard wide – prompted thoughts of what might have been had the nights he spent at a nightclub called the Glass Spider not hastened the young forward’s departure from Roy Keane’s Sunderland.
Celtic fans were in party mode, confidently turning their backs on the action while indulging in an impromptu, highly improvisational, conga.
When Leigh Griffiths finally escaped some suffocatingly tight marking from the excellent Kelvin Wilson and friends by springing the offside trap, collecting Kevin Thomson’s pass and rounding Forster, it appeared they may have relaxed prematurely.
Although his control ultimately let him down and he shot benignly across the face of goal that little cameo possibly served as an uncomfortable reminder to those at Wolverhampton Wanderers who allowed Griffiths to spend this season on loan at Hibs.
While Wolves were relegated from the Championship the striker scored 28 goals, becoming Scotland’s “Player of the Year’.
Here, though, Griffiths, carrying a calf injury, was eclipsed by others including Ledley who drove in the third left-footed from 12 yards after Mikael Lustig’s right-wing advance left a by now bedraggled Hibs bewildered.
Disappointed, Fenlon subsequently walked out of a media inquest after taking exception to an innocuous question about his tactics.