Alan Temple at Celtic Park
A James Forrest-inspired Celtic proved too good for Motherwell, as the Celts routed ‘Well 4-0 in a disappointing afternoon in Glasgow.
The gifted youngster scored two goals and was a constant threat to the Steelmen defence with his direct running and incisive final ball during a comfortable victory.
Additional strikes from Joe Ledley and Ki Sung-Yeung put some deserved gloss on the scoreline as Celtic’s plethora of expensive talent outclassed McCall’s in-form charges.
Neil Lennon handed a debut to January signing Badr El Kaddouri, while fellow new arrival Mohamed Bangura took his place on the Hoops’ bench – part of an embarrassment of riches on the sideline including Kris Commons.
While Celtic certainly boasted an array of stars, Stuart McCall’s side arrived in Glasgow ahead of the Celts, and with the ‘Well gaffer having just received Manager of the Month for July/August.
Naturally McCall shied away from making too many changes from the backbone of the side which earned their gaffer that accolade after the Steelmen’s best ever start to a Scottish Premier League season.
He made just one change from the win over Dunfermline two weeks previous; Shaun Hutchinson coming in for Chris Humphrey in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
Despite having a plethora of players away on international duty over the recent break in the SPL Celtic started the brighter of the two sides, with some enterprising early passing and elusive wing play from the lively James Forrest.
And with only ten minutes on the clock it was young Forrest who broke the deadlock. Some slick passing set Gary Hooper free on the right-hand channel of the penalty area, and the former Scunthorpe United man had the wherewithal to pick out Forrest for a tap-in at the back-post, leaving Darren Randolph with no chance.
Despite the early setback and somewhat laboured first ten minutes, Motherwell responded reasonably well. Some lovely interplay between Nicky Law and Stevie Hammell set the left-back free in the box, and his ball across the face of goal found Michael Higdon, but the big striker couldn’t twist his body to get a shot on target.
Some of the visitors’ passing was superb as the half progressed, with Hammell and Law looking particularly composed on the ball, ably assisted by the likes of Jennings and Lasley. Unfortunately, as was evident on a couple of occasions, the men in claret and amber were just lacking a final pass.
Such incisiveness was not in short supply in the Celtic ranks, especially with Gary Hooper and James Forrest around, and the pair who linked to create the opener both had chances to double the advantage.
Firstly, Gary Hooper hit the bar with a spectacular overhead-kick from a prohibitive angle, following a corner which Darren Randolph struggled gather coming through a melee of bodies. Hammell was forced to clear off the line with Ledley racing in to try and head the subsequent rebound home.
That chance was immediately followed by Randolph once more being called into action, with Forrest jinking inside from the flank and smashing a powerful drive which the keeper saved with his legs.
‘Well’s hopes of keeping a fluid Celtic at bay weren’t helped as Shaun Hutchinson limped off, being replaced by Chris Humphrey, and the Hoops were indeed two-up ten minutes before the break.
Despite a fairly evident foul on Steve Jennings by Gary Hooper in the build-up, play was allowed to continue and when the ball arrived at Anthony Stokes his through-pass was perfection for Joe Ledley. The surging Welshman could hardly miss, and slotted home from eight yards.
Scotland international James Forrest was the undoubted star of the opening period, and he could have made it three on the stroke of half-time. Another mazy run – albeit under limited pressure – afforded him the chance to fire in a left-footed shot which had Darren Randolph rooted to the spot, only to trickle wide.
Celtic’s start to the second period was equally lively, with Badr El Kaddouri and Anothony Stokes linking nicely down the left flank, causing particular problems for an increasingly under-the-cosh ‘Well backline.
Indeed, it was remarkable to see no takers for a sumptuous ball across the face of goal just minutes into the second half; a ball which pleaded to be prodded home for three-nil.
Chances for the visitors were at a premium – efforts from Tom Hateley and Steve Jennings from distance the only things giving the Celts keeper much to think about.
And, with around twenty minutes left to play Ki Sung-Yeung put any optimistic thoughts of a burgeoning comeback to bed with a strike from distance. The South Korean picked the ball up outside the box and lashed a cracking effort past the despairing Randolph, via a slight knick on the way.
Celtic’s resources were highlighted as they brought Kris Commons and Mohamed Bangura off the bench, and it certainly didn’t interrupt the flow of the side, with James Forrest narrowly failing to covert a terrific ball across the face of goal.
Kayal was next to threaten, flashing a shot a matter of inches wide as Randolph’s goal came under increasing, interminable pressure.
And the inevitable fourth goal came, with the superb Forrest firing past the ‘Well keeper from inside the box with some help from a deflection off the unfortunate Tim Clancy.
Alan Muir’s final whistle was something of a blessed relief for a Motherwell side that struggled to cope with an admittedly on-form Celtic attack, and the Steelmen will now look to regroup for three eminently more winnable home games in seven days, starting with the visit of St. Johnstone to Fir Park a week today.
[tab:As it happened]
Kris Jack at Celtic Park
Full Time – Celtic 4-0 Motherwell. Motherwell played well in spells but lacked the quality of Celtic. Back to winning ways next week.
88 Mins – Higdon almost pulls one back with a glancing header from a Hateley corner. Celtic pretty much seeing game out now though.
74 Mins – GOAL! 4-0 to the home side. Fast break finds the impressive Forrest running at Clancy and the youngster’s shot deflects over the onrushing Randolph.
68 Mins – GOAL! Ki makes it 3-0 to Celtic. The South Korean with almost an identi-kit goal to the one in the Cup Final, although it perhaps took a knick on the way through.
63 Mins – Jennings has a dig from distance which sails well over following Hateley’s whipped corner. Steelmen having decent spell of posession.
51 Mins – Mulgrew and Ki combine from a corner, with Mulgrew flashing a cross right across the face of goal. It was begging to be coverted. Let-off for the Steelmen.
48 Mins – Clancy and Randolph almost gift Celtic a 3rd, when the defenders pass-back evades the big keeper. Thankfully it drifts wide of the post.
45 Mins – Forrest almost makes it 3-0. His direct running is causing problems and a dart goalward sees a 20 yard shot fizz narrowly wide.
34 Mins – GOAL! Again, neat play on the edge of the box sees the ball fall to Ledley who strokes home. Although Jennings looked to take an arm to the face from Hooper in the build-up.
20 Mins – Hooper sits the bar with an overhead kick after Randolph failed to collect a corner kick, struggling to find a way through the melee.
10 Mins – GOAL! 1-0 to Celtic through James Forres. Slick play between Celtic’s front 3 picks out Forrest rushing in to the box and he slides his shot under Randolph.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“We said before the game we would need to defend well and frustrate them for long periods if we could. We lost a goal after only eight minutes, thereafter we had some reasonable football.
“When it was 2-0 at half time we said the next goal was the crucial one, and again we had instances in the game without looking like scoring and then Ki smashed one in from 30 yards.
“I’m disappointed but its now about how we bounce back ahead of three games coming up.”
Celtic manager Neil Lennon:
“It was an excellent win, the best we’ve played this season. I thought we were dynamic at times.
“I am delighted with the manner of the performance, the result and the four goals. That was more like us from last year.”