Celtic starts title defense with win

BY foxsports • August 3, 2013

Celtic needed a late Anthony Stokes goal to claim a 2-1 victory in their opening fixture of the Scottish Premiership season as the reigning champions were pushed all the way by Ross County.

The Staggies stormed into an unexpected early lead at Celtic Park as Darren Maatsen's long-range effort flew in off the underside of the crossbar to stun the majority of the crowd. Stokes was on hand to level proceedings just before the half-hour mark as he tapped home Mikael Lustig's shot following a goalmouth scramble.

The visitors' goal lived a charmed life for much of the second half as Neil Lennon's side pressed on for a winner. Firstly, it was the crossbar that came to their rescue as Kris Commons' effort cannoned off the woodwork and over the bar seven minutes into the second half. Charlie Mulgrew then saw a header come back off the post as he climbed highest to meet Commons' corner with the hosts well and truly on top.

As the game wore on, it looked as though Derek Adams' side had done enough to earn a shock draw but Stokes had other ideas as he cut inside and fired in the winner with just three minutes of normal time remaining.

An impressive second-half display sealed a perfect start to the new season for Inverness as they ran out comfortable 3-0 victors over 10-man St Mirren at the Caledonian Stadium. Terry Butcher's side will be looking to build on last season's fourth-placed finish and proved to be too strong for the Buddies.

James Vincent opened the scoring with a 47th-minute penalty after Ross Draper's shot had struck the arm of David van Zanten inside the St Mirren box. The lead was doubled within a minute after poor defending from the visitors allowed Aaron Doran to score a simple second before the former Blackburn youngster set up Billy McKay to wrap up the three points. Van Zanten's day then went from bad to worse when he was shown a second yellow card late on as St Mirren finished the game a man down.

There was also an opening-day win for Aberdeen in front of a bumper crowd at Pittodrie as they saw off Kilmarnock 2-1. Jonny Hayes opened the scoring after 21 minutes, tapping home after Calvin Zola's initial effort was well-saved. Debutant Willo Flood then headed in a second for the hosts early in the second half before Kris Boyd scored what proved to be a consolation for Allan Johnston' side.