Stokes strike sinks Bluebirds

On-trial goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa was a virtual spectator as Celtic warmed up for their SPL opener with a 1-0 friendly victory at Cardiff.

Last Updated: 20/07/11 at 22:12 Post Comment

Stokes: Celtic's matchwinner

Stokes: Celtic's matchwinner

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The Croatia international had little opportunity to impress Neil Lennon as Celtic secured a comfortable win thanks to a 34th-minute header from Anthony Stokes.

Pletikosa, who has been training with Celtic following his release by Spartak Moscow, made one simple first-half save and looked assured with the ball at his feet.

But the 32-year-old, who spent the vast majority of last season on the Tottenham bench, was otherwise untested with Celtic taking control after a shaky start.

Joe Ledley captained Celtic on his return to the club where he launched his career, with fellow former Bluebirds Glenn Loovens and Adam Matthews also in the starting line-up.

Emilio Izaguirre continued his comeback from a hamstring injury by reuniting with the first team as Thomas Rogne again missed out with a calf injury.

Cardiff earlier had a bid for former Celtic striker Kenny Miller accepted by Bursaspor, to seemingly deny Rangers the chance to bring back their top goalscorer from last season.

Miller is set to link up with several Scots including manager Malky Mackay, who was taking charge of his first home match since joining from Watford.

Former Celts David Marshall and Lee Naylor were in the Cardiff line-up and their team created the early chances.

Aron Gunnarsson hit the woodwork in the fifth minute when his header just missed the top corner and Jon Parkin was then played clean through, but the big striker shot wide.

Andrew Taylor soon looped a volley just over from 20 yards but Celtic settled down and began to control possession as the Bluebirds sat deep.

Stokes was looking lively and he converted Celtic's first real chance.

Izaguirre sharply intercepted the ball just inside his own half before exchanging passes with Ledley and arching a cross on to the head of Stokes.

The Irishman met the ball 12 yards out and headed it down and out of the reach of Marshall and into the corner of the net.

Ki Sung-yueng soon set Gary Hooper away on the counter-attack but the striker was faced with a tight angle and Marshall saved his firm shot.

Pletikosa made his first save when Joe Mason unleashed a 30-yard shot that the goalkeeper was firmly behind.

Celtic came close in the closing stages of the half when Marshall beat away a curling free-kick from Kris Commons, who was soon harshly booked for diving despite appearing to be brushed as he cut inside.

Lennon shook his head in disbelief as local referee Kevin Morgan showed the yellow card.

The referee had another decision to make in the 53rd minute when Mason went down theatrically inside the box after minimal contact with the arm of Matthews. No penalty was given.

Marshall then got down brilliantly to deny Hooper who played a one-two with Stokes inside a crowded penalty box and produced an instant low strike that the keeper palmed away.

Stokes was booked for a late tackle but there was little else to concern Lennon, who brought on numerous substitutes, including Victor Wanyama.

The summer signing from Beerschot got his first taste of action in midfield and another substitute, Charlie Mulgrew, missed a great chance when he headed wide from inside the six-yard box after being found by a Commons free-kick.

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