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Stokes fires Celtic to Rennes success

Celtic FC 3-1 Stade Rennais FC
The Hoops trailed to a second-minute Kader Mangane header, but two Anthony Stokes goals propelled them towards a vital Group I victory.

Anthony Stokes celebrates scoring his second goal against Rennes
Anthony Stokes celebrates scoring his second goal against Rennes ©Getty Images

Celtic FC moved into contention in UEFA Europa League Group I with an impressive 3-1 comeback victory against Stade Rennais FC.

Anthony Stokes was the hero for the Hoops, registering a first-half double after Rennes captain Kader Mangane had opened the scoring in the second minute. Substitute Gary Hooper scored a crucial third for the home side eight minutes from time.

Both sides needed a win to maintain realistic hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages and Rennes demonstrated their intent with a goal from their first attack. Julien Feret swung a corner in from the right and Mangane climbed highest to nod past Fraser Forster within two minutes.

The visitors' high-tempo pressing game meant Celtic were on the back foot for most of the first half-hour, but against the run of play they drew level on 30 minutes, Stokes tapping in from close range after Benoît Costil could only parry James Forrest's fierce shot.

The Republic of Ireland striker had the home crowd on their feet again two minutes before the break, latching onto Giorgos Samaras's headed flick-on before coolly slotting past Costil.

Already depleted by injury, Neil Lennon was forced to make a change at half-time with 17-year-old Marcus Fraser making his first-team debut for ailing captain Glenn Loovens. A couple of early interventions helped the youngster settle in at centre-back as Rennes resumed their territorial advantage.

However, Frédéric Antonetti's side were struggling to create clear-cut openings and Celtic's threat on the counter almost brought further reward on 65 minutes when Victor Wanyama flashed a shot wide of the post.

Substitute Youssouf Hadji went close as Rennes pressed for an equaliser, but all hope evaporated for the visitors in the 82nd minute when the impressive Samaras crossed for Hooper to put the result beyond doubt. Yann M'Vila then picked up a second yellow card for Rennes late on.