Phil McGhee at Fir Park
Motherwell crashed to their second consective home defeat as Celtic punished a Fir Park side still suffering the effects of their shock cup defeat.
Stuart McCall switched up with an unusual 3-5-2, matching Celtic who started with a similar shapre. Simon Ramsden returned to form a three man central defence with Iain Vigurs back in midfield and Craig Moore joining John Sutton in attack.
And the plan worked to some extent having nullified the champions threat until just before half-time when Kris Commons made the break through. However, a second goal early in the second half killed the game before Celtic finished the rout with three more goals in the final 15 minutes.
Celtic started where they left off at Tynecastle and immdeiately swept into attack, Mikael Lustig forcing a good save from Gunnar Nielsen within the first minute.
McCall was forced into a substitution after only nine minutes when Fraser Kerr limped off with Adam Cummins coming into central defence and Ramsden moving to right back.
‘Well then conceded a free kick 20 yards in front of goal but Nielsen smothered Anthony Stokes curling effort at the second time of asking.
The home goal was under siege at this stage and Scott Brown appealed for a penalty when his cross cannoned off Stevie Hammell.
As the half progressed ‘Well took the sting out of Celtic’s attack and started to make some in roads towards Fraser Forster’s goal.
A great move down the left ended with Vigurs whipping in a teasing cross which was just beyond Sutton.
Motherwell looked more confident in possssion but just when it looked as if they were heading for the dressing room on level terms Celtic produced a goal from nothing. Stokes, who had pushed Keith Lasley off the ball in the build up, fired a low shot across the six yard box. There looked little danger until Commons, with a terrific backhealer, re-directed the ball past Nielsen.
Two minutes into the second half ‘Well created their best chance of the game when Vigurs curled in a free kick and Sutton climbed the highest only to send his header narrowly over the bar.
Before ‘Well could sustain any pressure on the visitor’s goal they found themsleves two down. Shaun Hutchison did well to cut out Stokes’ cross but when Charlie Mulgrew delivered the reslutant corner to the back post Efe Ambose towered above everyone to powerfully head the ball under the bar.
‘Well then replaced Moore with Henri Anier as they tried to make an impression on the dominant Celt’s defence.
It was the ‘Well defence and Nielsen, though, that found themselves under attack as Celtic pressed to extend their lead.
The Fir Park ‘keeper stayed on his feet to brilliantly block Brown from the edge of the six yard box, before doing likewise to deny Joe Ledley.
But in the final 15 minutes the ‘keeper was exposed as Celtic added another three.
Nielsen, at full length brilliantly palmed away an Izaguirre shot but it fell for Commons who bundled the ball into the net. Two minutes later Teemu Pukki swept the ball across the face of the goal allowing Stokes to drive home number four before Bahrudin Atajic lobbed the ball over Nielsen to make it 5-0 and complete a miserable night for ‘Well.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FT: Motherwell 0 – 5 Celtic
89mins– GOAL – Atajic makes it 5-0, chipping it over Nielsen
89mins: 2 minutes added on
87mins: Boerrigter smashes it off the post
83mins: Celtic sub, Henderson on for Brown
83mins: A rare venture upfront, Ramsden crossing for Sutton, who is just beaten to it by Ambrose.
79mins: Commons and Pukki off for Atajic and Boerrigter
76mins: GOAL – Stokes makes it 4-0, counter attack and he slides it home from Pukki’s cross.
74mins: GOAL – Commons makes it 3-0 after he pokes home from Nielsen’s save
67mins: Another let off as Nielsen tips Ledley’s shot past the post with his feet. Total domination now from Celtic
66mins: Pukki booked for simulation. Clearly not though from TV footage. A let off.
65mins: Pukki should really have made it 3 but he is hesitant and Hutchinson does well to slide in and clear
63mins: Stokes tries his luck from a tight angle on his left foot which Nielsen does well to divert to safety
61mins: Mulgrew fires his 30 yard free kick over the bar as the snow starts to come down here at FP
60mins: Motherwell sub, Anier on for Moore
56mins: Should have been 3 there! Brown denied well though by Nielsen at his front post from close range
53mins: GOAL – Ambrose makes it 2-0, heading home, Mulgrew’s corner.
47mins: Free-kick to ‘Well about 40 yards out, chance for a good delivery……Sutton heads just over!! Good chance! #mfcvcfc
46mins: Ledley almost makes it 2 with a head which whistles just past the left hand post.
46mins: Lasley and Vigurs kick off the second half.
HT: Motherwell 0 – 1 Celtic
44mins: Lasley booked for dissent
43mins: GOAL – Commons opens the scoring after Stokes shoots and he diverts it past Nielsen
38mins: Hutchinson does well to take the sting out of Stokes’ shot which Nielsen takes comfortably
34mins: Pukki drives into the box but only 10 yards out from at tight angle he tamely rolls the ball into Nielsen’s hands
31mins: Bit more positive play now. First Lasley tries to slide in Sutton but he can’t quite get there then Vigurs’ cross is headed clear
27mins: Bit of attacking play from ‘Well. Hammell and Vigurs combine down the left but Vig’s cross is over hit.
24mins: Lustig heads just over from Izaguirre’s cross from 12 yards
20mins: Hammell handles in the box but ref rules it not deliberate and waves play on. Have seen those given.
16mins: Hutchinson booked for a hard tackle on Pukki.
15mins: ‘Well struggling to get out their own half or get any sort of meaningful possession
10mins: Kerr limping off here, Cummins his replacement.
6mins: Corner to ‘Well, Izaguirre blocking Kerr’s cross
5mins: Dangerous free-kick for Celtic……Stokes fires straight at Nielsen who gathers at the second attempt #mfcvcfc
3mins: Lasley tries to play in Moore with a ball over the top but it’s over hit and out for a throw-in #mfcvcfc
1mins: Ramsden and Pukki chase down a ball over the top and a free-kick is given to ‘Well after a push #mfcvcfc
20seconds: Lustig stings the palms of Nielsen already from 16 yards on the angle! #mfcvcfc
Stokes and Commons get the game underway #mfcvcfc
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“Celtic were terrific and there’s no doubt about that,” said the Motherwell boss. “But, coming up to five minutes before half time, for all the good play they’ve had, I don’t think they’ve had any outstanding chances.
“We were digging in and getting blocks. But they’ve got quality players and boys who can bring it out from the back. And they’re playing with a lot of confidence.
“The biggest disappointment was the second goal from a set-piece. If you get cut open, which Celtic did many times to us, then you’ve got to hold your hands up.
“But it was a bread and butter corner and we don’t pick up. Ambrose scores and thereafter they just picked us off at will and showed what confident form they’re in at the moment.
“That’s probably as strong a Celtic side they can be at the moment. They’ve got players playing at the top of their game.
“No disrespect, but in the next couple of games we’re not going to come up against Celtic. So it’s down to us to knuckle down and prove we can be in the top three or four and that’s what we’ll aim to do.
“We’ll knuckle down and go up to Dingwall next week and hopefully put this to bed. Last week has gone and tonight was a difficult one to take.
“But I think sometimes you’ve got to put your hands up and say we were up against a really good side.
“There’s things we can do better, there’s no doubt about that. You don’t want to get beat at home like that, but we’ve got three or four games coming up where we need to hit top form.”
Celtic manager Neil Lennon:
“Overall, I’m delighted as the quality of our football is at a very high level. We started the game well and in the second half we were fantastic.
“We were too wayward in front of goal for my liking and probably could have scored more, with a couple of penalties thrown in as well. But I’m very pleased with the win.”