Phil McGhee at Celtic Park
Motherwell couldn’t prevent Celtic returning to the top of the Premiership table and make it a miserable three consecutive away defeats.
Apart from some resolute and organised defending for the opening quarter, there were few positives for Ian Baraclough, except for the fact that at the end of the ninety minutes he had three teenagers and a twenty year old in his line-up.
Stephen Pearson made his return to the ‘Well midfield, almost exactly 11 years after he left Fir Park, coincidently to join Celtic.
Some touches and runs from midfield suggest that his experience will be an asset in the coming months.
Simon Ramsden and Luke Watt were also in the starting line-up covering for the injured Keith Lasley and suspended Henrik Ojamaa.
With five across the midfield ‘Well were content to give Celtic possession and restrict them to long range efforts. Two 25 yard drives from Kris Commons and Anthony Stokes drifted harmlessly wide of target, but it was a fairly calm opening.
Dan Twardzik was finally forced into action after 17 minutes when raced from his line and then bravely dived to punch clear as Leigh Griffiths was about to capitalise on Commons’ through ball.
Although not venturing beyond their own half, Motherwell looked comfortable until conceding the lead after 26 minutes.
Stokes was afforded far too much time and space following a cleared corner, and he picked out Virgil Van Dijk unmarked at the back post and the Dutch defender had the easiest of tasks nodding the ball home to open the scoring.
That forced the Fir Park men to be more adventourous and a couple of breaks from Pearson offered some hope.
On the half hour he was sent clear by John Sutton and the midfield strongly held off Jason Denayer to the left of the box before floating the ball over Craig Gordon and byond the ‘keeper’s post.
Seven minutes later the pair combined again but when Pearson sent the ball across the six yard box Danayer slid in front of Sutton to deny him a strike at goal.
The visitor’s hopes of getting back into the game took a dent three minutes from half time when Celtic grabbed a second goal. Stokes was again the provider with a cross from the left and Griffiths nipped across Stephen McManus to steer a header well beyond Twardzik.
Dom Thomas replaced Lionel Ainsworth at half-time and the 18 year-old immediately brought some attacking flair. Twice in the opening minutes Thomas had shots at goal and after his first floated wide he collected a pass from Craig Reid at the corner of the box before slamming a drive into the side netting.
Twardzik’s goal then had a lucky escape when, after some poor defending, the unmarked Stefan Johansen headed the ball against the foot of the post with the ‘Well ‘keeper relieved to turn and gather the rebound.
After 62 minutes Twardzik produced his first save spreading himself brilliantly to block Johansen’s thumping drive from 10 yards.
As the pressure mounted on the visitors goal Emilio Izaguirre’s shot deflected off the face of the crossbar.
The unlucky Mark O’Brien was again in the wars, this time a clash of heads with Johansen resulting in both players being substituted, Craig Moore coming on for his first appearance since damaging his cruciate.
And it was the young striker’s 20 yard drive which forced Gordon into his first save after 74 minutes.
Celtic delivered the sucker punch, though, when they moved straight upfield for Mikael Lustig to sweep home number three.
Nine from time the Celtic defender dived to power a header past Twardzik to round off another disappointing away day for ‘Well.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at Celtic Park
FT: Celtic 4 – 0 Motherwell #CFCvMFC
1 minute added on #CFCvMFC
83mins: Law is booked for a shirt pull on Lustig. From the free-kick, Lustig fires off the bar #CFCvMFC
80mins: Goal – Lustig scores again, this time a diving header to make it 4-0 #CFCvMFC
75mins: Goal! Lustig makes it 3-0, finished low into the left corner from an Izaguirre cutback #CFCvMFC
74mins: Slack pass out of Celtic’s defence straight to Moore but he can only shoot straight at Gordon #CFCvMFC
And both are subbed off. O’Brien off for Moore and Johansen off for Scepovic #CFCvMFC
69mins: Bad headknock there between Johansen and O’Brien. Blood shed on both parts….
66mins: Motherwell sub, Erwin on for Sutton #CFCvMFC
65mins: Izaguirre rattles the bar from a low cross only 10 yards out. Should have been 3 #CFCvMFC
64mins: Celtic sub, Forrest on for Stokes #CFCvMFC
63mins: Twardzik has to dive low to his left to beat away Johansen’s low drive from just inside the box #CFCvMFC
58mins: Johansen sees his header come back off the post and roll along the line into the hands of Twardzik #CFCvMFC
56mins: Commons cuts in from the right hand side but again lacks composure as he pulls the trigger. Well over again #CFCvMFC
48mins: Carswell dispossesses van Dijk and slides in Thomas who fires into the side netting from 15 yards. Unlucky. #CFCvMFC
47mins: Good passsing moves sets up Brown in the ‘Wel box but he awkwardly volleys over #CFCvMFC
Second half is underway #CFCvMFC
Half-time subs, Thomas on for Ainsworth and Lustig on for Matthews #CFCvMFC
HT: Celtic 2 – 0 Motherwell #CFCvMFC
42mins: Goal! It’s 2-0, Griffiths heading home another Stokes cross #CFCvMFC
Corner falls to Ainsworth at the far post but his volley is fired into the ground and is cleared #CFCvMFC
38mins: Another ‘Well corner after Pearson whips in a lovely low ball for Sutton which is intercepted. #CFCvMFC
35mins: First corner of the game for ‘Well…….headed clear by Denayer at the front post #CFCvMFC
31mins: Close to an equaliser! Pearson drives forward and with no options in the box attempts a lob over Gordon. Not far wide! #CFCvMFC
26mins: Goal! van Dijk puts Celtic 1 up here at Celtic Park. Headered home Stokes’ cross at the back post #CFCvMFC
20mins: Izaguirre gets down the wing and squares to Commons who is off ballance and fires well over #CFCvMFC
17mins: Twardzik comes off his line and bravely gets in front of Griffiths to punch clear Commons’ cross #CFCvMFC
10mins: Commons wins a free-kick in a dangerous position 25 yards out….Stokes curls it inches wide of the post #CFCvMFC
7mins: A long range shot from Commons flashes past the post. From the stand, looked closer than Twardzik’s manner suggested. #CFCvMFC
6mins: ‘Well break and then get countered and concede another corner, which is cleared to safety #CFCvMFC
5mins: Corner to Celtic after O’Brien nods it behind at the back post #CFCvMFC
And we are underway. COYW! #CFCvMFC
Motherwell manager Ian Baraclough:
“We have to put it right the next game. You can’t keep relying on others not picking up points, you have to pick up points yourself.
“No-one is kidding ourselves, we are part of that group of three who are fighting for their lives.”
Celtic manager Ronny Deila:
“I feel more comfortable now before games. I feel more safe and trust the team more than I did before.
“We are more together and understand what we expect of each other. The training is also good quality now so if we keep what we have got it’s going to be hard to beat us.
“We want to be number one and now everything is in our hands. If we win the rest of the games we are champions and that’s the best position we can have, even though we know there are so many games left.
“We just have to keep performing like today and winning games then we will see at the end of the season whether it’s a race or not.”