CELTIC 2 MOTHERWELL 0
ODSONNE EDOUARD led the champions into the international break with his 13th goal of the campaign as Neil Lennon’s men overcame a valiant Fir Park outfit at Parkhead this afternoon.
The French striker made certain the Hoops remained on course for their seventh successive victory – including two back-to-back successes over Lazio – since their setback at Livingston at the start of last month.
He made no mistake when an opportunity opened up in the first-half and the goalkeeper has not been born who could have kept his effort out of the net.
An own goal made certain of the points to keep the champions on 31 and at the pinnacle of the Premiership on goal difference.
As expected, the Hoops had most of the early possession with Man-of-the-Match Jonny Hayes marauding on the left after being given the nod ahead of Greg Taylor, the £2.25million summer signing from Kilmarnock, with Boli Bolingoli ruled out through injury.
The inexhaustible Irishman fired in a left-foot effort in the third minute that carried too high and moments later sizzled in another attempt that was blocked by the Well defence.
DIDN’T HE DO WELL…Odsonne Edouard put opponents to the sword.
Next up, dangerman Edouard flashed in a low drive that was held at the base of the post by keeper Mark Gillespie.
It was almost 10 minutes before Fraser Forster got his first touch of the ball and shortly afterwards he watched a shot from Chris Long whizz past the right-hand post.
Normal service was swiftly restored when central defender Declan Gallagher was forced into a desperate last-ditch tackle on Mohamed Elyounoussi as the Norwegian international prepared to pull the trigger after a searching pass from Callum McGregor.
In the 19th minute, the Motherwell barrier was broken when Edouard struck to claim his 13th strike of the season. Elyounoussi tried to play in James Forrest and Gallagher attempted to intercept. The ball broke to the French Under-21 ace who walloped an unstoppable effort high into Gillespie’s top left-hand corner.
In the 25th minute that was a slight scare for the champions when Jake Carroll clipped in an inviting cross from the left and the lunging Long just missed making a connection at the near post. The ball eventually broke to Liam Polworth who lashed an attempt waywardly over the bar.
HOOP HOOP HOORAY…James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard celebrate.
On the half-hour mark, a neat five-man moved ended with Hayes whipping in an inviting cross from the left, but Edouard’s 10-yard header was safely grabbed by Gillespie.
The ever-busy Olivier Ntcham, the Roman conqueror on Thursday night, tried his luck from 30 yards, but his right foot effort swept high over the crossbar. It was worth a try.
In the 36th minute, the French midfielder then sent Forrest scampering on the right with a precision pass and the winger knocked the ball inside for Edouard who took a touch before thumping in a 16-yarder that was off target.
Stephen Robinson’s side were absorbing a lot of the Hoops’ pressure with Gallagher working overtime in the heart of the rearguard as he repelled a few darting raids.
Forrest had a shot blocked before Elyounoussi hammered one over from the penalty spot. Gillespie looked a relieved man.
The procession continued with Hayes attempting a snap shot that was beaten away by the alert visiting keeper low at his right-hand post.
Astonishingly, despite dominating possession and setting up several excellent opportunities, Celtic had to be content with a solitary one-goal advantage at the interval.
Forster was out early before the start of the second-half to go through a routine with goalkeeping coach Stevie Woods which wasn’t a bad idea considering his lengthy periods of inactivity in the opening 45 minutes with the ball at the other end of the field.
He was also given some catching practice when Polworth sent in a high free-kick and the towering shotstopper stretched to gather the ball at the far post.
In the 54th minute, Celtic doubled their advantage when Richard Tait attempted to cut out a sizzling cross from Hayes and only managed to divert the ball beyond the helpless and startled Gillespie. It was unfortunate for the defender who did his best to nullify the threat after Edouard had sent the busy left-back racing clear.
At the other end, Forster looked lively to touch a header from Gallagher over the bar, but referee Alan Muir had already blown for a foul by the Well centre-half on Christopher Jullien as he rose to the cross.
HAPPY HAYES…non-stop Jonny Hayes ran the Well rearguard ragged.
Lennon freshened up things in the 67th minute when he replaced Forrest with Ryan Christie who bounced onto the pitch looking eager to play his role.
Four minutes later, the classy playmaker had a shot well held by Gillespie and that was followed by a rasping 16-yard right-foot effort from Frimpong which was deflected for a corner-kick with the fans claiming a penalty-kick for handball. The match official was having none of it.
And the adventurous Frimpong, already a darling of the home support, then crashed in a low angled drive that was saved by the boot of the diving Gillespie.
Lewis Morgan was introduced for Elyounoussi four minutes from the end to get some rust out of his limbs.
The visitors continued to work hard to close down space as Scotland’s title kings rolled forward in waves and Fir Park boss Robinson will have no complaints after this performance.
Celtic can take a breather from points-gathering in their quest for nine in a row.
Livingston, the only Scottish team to beat them this season, are in town in 13 days’ time. It won’t be dull!
TEAM: Forster; Frimpong, Ajer, Jullien, Hayes; Brown, McGregor; Forrest (sub: Christie 67), Ntcham, Elyounoussi (sub: Morgan 86); Edouard.