Kris Jack at Fir Park
Celtic moved above 10-man Motherwell at the top of the SPL with a 2-0 win at Fir Park.
Gary Hooper opened the scoring after half an hour, before Adam Cummins put through his own net four minutes later.
Cummins then saw red for a last man challenge on Kris Commons to give away a second half penalty, which was saved by Darren Randolph.
The scoreline perhaps doesn’t reflect the away performance though, as but for Randolph and some losses of composure in the box, Celtic could and should have scored more. Motherwell struggled to make any impact on Fraser Forster’s goal against a rampant Celtic side who had quality throughout their squad.
Stuart McCall stated after Wednesday night’s Scottish Communities League Cup exit at Ibrox that changes would likely be made for Celtic’s visit and he followed through by making three. Henrik Ojamaa and Fraser Kerr dropped to the bench, with Stevie Hammell missing out completely with an ankle knock. In came Jamie Murphy, Simon Ramsden and Zaine Francis- Angol.
Neil Lennon fielded a strong team, with several who took part in their midweek win over Raith Rovers, dropping out. Gary Hooper looked to add to his four goal League Cup haul on Tuesday at the front of the Hoops attack. New signing Efe Ambrose made the starting eleven, with fellow newcomer Miku starting from the bench.
Despite a reasonably comfortable start, albeit creating little in the final third, Motherwell had Darren Randolph to thank for keeping the scores level in the first ten minutes. James Forrest played a neat reverse ball for Hooper to latch on to but the former Scunthorpe hitman’s shot was well kept out by the shins of the Irish goalkeeper.
A free-kick on the edge of the box then worked its way to Scott Brown whose low drive was palmed out by Randolph with Victor Wanyama blasting the rebound wide.
Forrest and Commons then had efforts dip just over the bar, as the visitors looked to turn the screw. In contrast, the Steelmen couldn’t keep possession for any amount of time, with only Tom Hateley offering any excitement for the home crowd but his right footed dig from 20 yards sailed over and in to the fans behind the goal.
Antiguan Francis-Angol then made a great last ditch block to prevent Hooper opening the scoring. It was only delaying the inevitable though as on 31 minutes, the English striker gave Celtic the lead.
A diagonal ball over the top from Scott Brown caught Shaun Hutchinson on his heels. Hooper took a great touch to put the ball in front of him before coolly slotting it under the advancing Randolph to net his eighth goal of the season.
As on Wednesday, McCall’s men had to react to going behind, but within four minutes of doing so, they found themselves two goals down.
Another diagonal ball, this time from Commons, found Scott Brown on the left hand side. With time to compose himself he struck a ball in to the six yard box aimed for Gary Hooper. Adam Cummins slid in to make the block, but only contrived to knock the ball beyond Randolph at the front post.
With the second half still to play, it was a tall order for ‘Well to get back in to the game, and it was made even taller 10 minutes in to the second period. Commons ran on to a ball from Mulgrew and just as he looked to get past Cummins, the young defender hauled him down, earning himself a red card and a penalty for Celtic.
Having missed a spot kick against Dundee last week, skipper Scott Brown placed the ball to make amends for Celtic. With a stuttered run up, his spot kick was hit central allowing the diving Randolph to get his legs up to keep the effort out. It was the Well stopper’s third penalty save of the season, and gave the home fans something to cheer about in a wholly one sided game.
Surprisingly, with a man advantage for the most of the second half, Celtic did not add to their tally. Commons and Hooper had tame efforts after flooding the Steelmen defence, before Randolph earned his man of the match plaudits with a fine save from Scott Brown’s close range volley, after Izaguirre had got in behind Hutchinson.
Celtic introduced Miku and Georgios Samaras as they showed off their attacking options, but neither could increase their side’s lead. The new Celtic number seven had two decent chances, one which he screwed wide, the other hitting the side netting.
The introduction of Henrik Ojamaa sparked a brief spell of pressure for the Fir Parkers failed to produce a decent effort on goal for the home side. James Forrest should have made it 3-0 in the dying moments, after skipping past Francis-Angol in the box but he fell over the ball before he could get his shot off.
Focus for Motherwell will now turn to next week’s meeting with Dundee United at Fir Park.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FULL-TIME: Motherwell 0 – 2 Celtic.
90mins: Just into added on time.
88mins: Hateley finds Hutchinson with it but he just mis-times his jump and heads over.
86mins: It’s a late chance for Motherwell. Free-kick from a narrow angle on the edge of the box.
84mins: Corner to Motherwell…….Samaras breaks clear and is hauled down by Daley.
81mins: Celtic break with 3 against 3. Francis-Angol does enough to divert Forrest’s shot wide of the post.
79mins: Motherwell/Celtic subs: Ojamaa on for Murphy and Ledley on for Lustig.
75mins: Wanyama stings Randolph’s hands from 30 yards. Had it been either side of him ,it’s a great goal.
74mins: Celtic Sub: Miku on for Commons
72mins: Motherwell finally get out their own half. The attack ends when the ref judges Daley to have fouled Izaguirre.
69mins: 10 man Motherwell under severe pressure. Can’t get the ball and the majority of this half has been played in ‘Well’s final third.
68mins: Celtic Sub: Brown off for Samaras.
68mins: Motherwell sub: Daley on for Humphrey
65mins: Randolph somehow manages to beat away Brown’s close range shot. Looked like a certain goal.
64mins: Motherwell sub: Nicky Law off for Fraser Kerr.
60mins: Half-chance there for Hooper. Commons delivered a wicked ball into the box at the front post and Hooper can’t get enough on it.
54mins: Uphill struggle now for the 10 men!
54mins: RED CARD: Cummins sent off for hauling down Commons inside the box. Penalty saved by Randolph!!
52mins: Izaguirre controls a long ball and gets in behind the defence. Squares to Commons who drags his shot wide.
51mins: Celtic controlling the opening 5 minutes of the second half.
48mins: Hooper clips the ball across goal but there are no Celtic players there to divert home. A let off.
45mins: Second half now underway. Need a big reaction from the players now if we are to get back into this.
HALF-TIME: It’s Motherwell 0 – 2 Celtic. Hooper and a Cummins own goal separates the two sides.
35mins: GOAL: Cummins knocks Brown’s cross into his own net. 0-2
31mins: Too easy as the defence were caught under the ball giving him time and space to slot past the helpless Randolph
31mins: GOAL – Hooper sends Celtic 1 in front.
29mins: Francis-Angol does fantastically to block from Hooper after he peeled off his shoulder to volley towards goal.
28mins: And up the other end Randolph has to look sharp to get off his line to slide clear from Forrest.
27mins: Hateley dispossess Commons and has a crack from 20 yards. Unlucky to see it fly over.
25mins: Booking for Brown after a bodycheck on Murphy in the Motherwell half. Pity as there looked a good break on!
22mins: Commons goes close with a cheeky volley over Randolph. Looked like he was shaping for power but lobs it goalward just over bar.
14mins: Free-kick drilled straight into the wall by Commons. Humphrey almost broke clear but Mulgrew was equal to him and cleared for Celtic.
13mins: Hutchinson booked for a bodycheck on Commons as he burst through on goal. Free-kick 25 yards out.
12mins: Three corners in quick succession there for Celtic. All were scrambled clear by Motherwell.
11mins: Corner to Celtic….Common’s volley deflected out for another corner.
9mins: And again a great stop! Intelligent set-play from Celtic free’s space for Brown to shoot from 25 yards. Good hand beats it away.
8mins: Great save from Randolph! Hooper just has to slot home but the big stopper, slides out well with his feet and clears.
5mins: Good ball in from Hateley at the front post but Murphy’s header bounces into Forster’s arms.
4mins: It’s a positive start from the Steelmen. Had the bulk of possession as Francis-Angol is hacked down in a dangerous position.
1min: Lasley delivers from the right after early pressure but it overshoots the box.
1min: And we’re off. Let’s get right behind the ‘Well!
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“We were beaten by a better side on the day. If you come up against a side that are better than you and they play well, you can only do your best
“We saw Celtic at their best and when they are at their best no-one in this league will live with them. It could have been worse, getting a man sent off with 30 minutes to go.
“It’s not what we’ll do against Celtic that will count. Obviously, we want to beat every side but you’ve got to be realistic.
“With the side they’ve got, when they play at their best, which they certainly were today, nobody else will have a prayer to match them.
“Celtic were outstanding and that’s what happens when they are good. The one thing from us is that we stuck at it.”
Celtic manager Neil Lennon:
“We were brilliant today from start to finish. It should have been alot more.
“I was delighted with how we defended and some of our attacking play was excellent. We probably should’ve had more as it was one way traffic for a lot of the match.
“We were superb all over the park and that’s the best I’ve seen us this season.”