Motherwell ran out of steam in the second half as they went down 5-2 at home to Celtic.
In an explosive opening Motherwell were rewarded for a positive start, Liam Donnelly’s gave his side the lead after 10 minutes.
The advantage was short lived as Kristopher Ajer equalised within 90 seconds. Then just before the end of an entertaining first half where the Fir Park side dominated large spells, a Leigh Griffiths free kick put Celtic in front.
The Steelmen failed to put Celtic under the same kind of pressure in the second half as the champions found their feet. Coupled with a few defensive lapses, goals from James Forrest, Odsonne Edouard and Ryan Christie gave Celtic an emphatic lead.
Although Donnelly found the net again in injury time, to claim his sixth of the season, it was little consolation as ‘Well ended up on the wrong side of a scoreline that looked improbable on their first half performance.
Stephen Robinson stuck close to the tam which finished the game at Livingston last week. Christopher Long led the attack with Sherwin Seedorf and Jermaine Hylton on either side of him.
The only forced change was Liam Grimshaw replacing the suspended Jake Carroll, with Richard Tait reverting to the left back slot.
Celtic, after their European exertions in midweek rotated their line-up but were still able to bring in the goal threat of Leigh Griffiths and Lewis Morgan.
However, it was Motherwell that made the early threats on Scott Bain’s goal and the Celtic ‘keeper had a few anxious moments in the early play as the home side played a pressing game in the visitor’s half.
In the 10th minute, Liam Polworth’s corner kick found Declan Gallagher eight yards out but having stooped to meet the ball he could only guide his header over the bar.
Two minutes later, though, the pair combined to set up the opening goal. Polworth’s crossfield ball again found Gallagher at the edge of the box. His cushioned header teed up Donnelly and his low drive from 18 yards sneaked inside the right hand post and beyond Bain’s despairing dive.
The Fir Park fans were still celebrating when Celtic produced a leveller within 90 seconds. James Forrest trailed the ball towards the home box before releasing the ball into the path of Ajer and with Gillespie racing from his line the Celtic defender calmly steered the ball under the ‘keeper to make it 1-1.
Despite that setback the home side stuck to its game plan and when Campbell sent Long in behind Ajer there were strong appeals for a penalty as the Celtic defender desperately attempted to dispossess the ‘Well striker.
With 25 minutes played, Seedorf whipped the ball low across the face of Bain’s goal but just in front of Hylton who came racing in from the other wing.
A quick break from the Parkhead men found Olivier Ntcham with time on the left but his low ball intended for Griffiths was well cut out by Gillespie as he slid out to claim the ball.
Two minutes later the French midfielder did find a team mate with a delightful clipped pass to Boli Bolingoli but from a tight angle he dragged the ball across Gillespie and narrowly beyond his left hand post.
Having been pressed into their own half for most of the first half, Celtic enjoyed more possession around the home goal as the interval approached. And five minutes from the break the advantage swung Celtic’s way.
Gallagher rather clumsily fouled Griffiths 25 yards from goal and the Scotland striker once again demonstrated his dead ball prowess, driving the free kick though the ‘Well defensive wall and inside Gillespie’s left hand post.
The Steelmen came close to claiming an immediate equaliser when Polworth found Donnelly close to the byeline. His driven cross begged a finishing touch but Long’s lunge four yards from goal failed to make contact.
Despite going behind Motherwell took a great deal of credit from the first half and in an attempt to restart on the front foot, Christian Ilic replaced Seedorf.
However, it was Celtic, having recovered from their midweek travels and lethargic first half who pushed towards Gillespie’s goal from the start of the second half.
Just beyond the hour mark Stephen Robinson made his second change giving Devante Cole the chance to make an impression up front in place of Long.
It looked promising when the on loan Wigan striker was judged narrowly offside as he raced in on goal. But within four minutes of his appearance Celtic had extended the lead.
Forrest collected Bolingoli’s cut back just beyond the corner of the six yard box and although his path to goal looked blocked, the Scotland winger side stepped inside Gallagher before stroking the ball across Gillespie and just inside his far post to make it 3-1.
That virtually killed the game but in a final attempt to inject some life into the home side James Scott replaced Hylton for the final 20 minutes.
It was Celtic though who scored again 15 from time. As ‘Well claimed a handball against Bolingoli, the ball quickly moved to the other end where Edouard calmly placed the ball to Gillespie’s right
Motherwell determined to put an accurate perspective on the scoreline, looked to reduce the leeway and after taking a pass from Ilic wide on the right, Grimshaw’s fierce drive flew narrowly beyond Bain’s post.
Celtic , though weren’t finished and six minutes from time Christie blasted home number five from the penalty spot after Donnelly had tripped Edouard in the box.
In injury time, Donnelly blasted home his second of the afternoon when he collected Gallgher’s knockdown and from a few yards fired high into the net to end the goal scoring spree.