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Page last updated at 23:18 GMT, Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Celtic boss Lennon hails Hooper - Stokes partnership

Celtic manager Neil Lennon
Lennon was delighted to pick up another league victory

Neil Lennon was full of praise for strike duo Gary Hooper and Anthony Stokes after the 3-0 win at Aberdeen.

Both men were on target in a comfortable victory, although Stokes was guilty of missing an early penalty.

"Gary Hooper started the game very well and his goal was a thing of great beauty," said the Celtic manager.

"He and Anthony feed off each other and there is great competition between them. I'm really pleased with the way they have developed."

Stokes saw his spot-kick saved by Jamie Langfield after Andrew Considine was sent off for hauling back Scott Brown in just the second minute of the game.

However, Aberdeen's resistance was broken on 12 minutes when Hooper played a neat one-two with his strike partner and slipped a cool finish into the bottom corner of the net.

The roles were reversed in the second half when the former Scunthorpe forward prodded a pass into Stokes's path and the Irishman drilled in a shot to beat Langfield at his near post.

Lennon was particularly impressed with Hooper's contribution, saying: "His all-round game tonight was brilliant. His touch, his awareness, his strength.

"He misses chances but he never gets disappointed because he always fancies himself to score."

Mark Wilson was filling in at centre-half due to injuries and claimed his first ever Celtic goal with a thumping header to make it 2-0.

"He's been fantastic for me and you can see his versatility," said Lennon of the former Dundee United full-back. "He's putting in quality performances in different positions.

"He's very consistent and he's vital to the squad."

Lennon hopes to have recognised central defenders Daniel Majstorovic and Glenn Loovens back to fitness later this week but would have no problems retaining the Wilson and Charlie Mulgrew partnership for Sunday's Scottish Cup tie with Rangers at Ibrox.

"They are experienced," Lennon explained to BBC Radio Scotland.

"Charlie has been exceptional in the last six weeks and he's really grown into being part of the team. He feels like he deserves to be here now.

"It probably took him a bit of time to settle in after coming back but he's been really consistent and Mark has been a consistent player for a long, long time - he's very underrated and I'm delighted he's been called up to the Scotland squad.

"The way they played tonight, I won't be losing any sleep."

Of the early penalty award and Considine's dismissal, Lennon said: "You don't like to see any team go down to 10 men so early but, from where I was standing, I don't think the referee had any choice.

"Scott [Brown] was clean through on goal and he's been pulled back.

"We missed some great chances. We should have been out of sight by half time.

"Second half, Kris [Commons] has had a couple of great chances to put the game away and we just felt that bringing Paddy [McCourt] on, with them down to 10 men, might give us more creativity.

"And the first thing he did was put Kris through with a wonder ball.

"We eventually wore them down with our passing and the goals came at a great time."

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see also
Aberdeen 0-3 Celtic
01 Feb 11 |  Scottish Premier

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