CELTIC 4 MOTHERWELL 1
CELTIC had to overcome some awful lack of sportsmanship from their visitors before they pulverised them with two late goals to make certain of a well-merited triumph at Parkhead this afternoon.
The Hoops were easing two goals ahead with first-half strikes from Scott Sinclair and Odsonne Edouard when the visitors broke away while the home players expected the ball to be returned after it had been kicked off to allow the injured Ryan Christie to get treatment.
As the Highlander was helped off, the Fir Park side raced up the park and pulled a goal back. The action stunned the fans and clearly enraged the champions’ players, most notably Kristoffer Ajer.
It left a bad taste in the mouth as the visitors attempted to get an undeserved equaliser, but an amazing free-kick from Edouard and another from substitute Oliver Burke made sure Brendan Rodgers’ side would remain eight points clear at the top of the Premiership.
GOALSCORING DOUBLE-ACT…Celtic’s first-half marksmen Scott Sinclair and Odsonne Edouard in a joint celebration.
There was a special welcome for Kieran Tierney who led out the team for the first time in a league game on his return from the persistent hip problem that forced him onto the sidelines for over two months.
The left-back has captained the Hoops in Europe and the League Cup, but this was his debut is the Premiership.
In the opening moments, Nir Bitton, another of the comeback Bhoys, picked out James Forrest with a superb through pass in the centre of the box, but the chance was lost when the forward opted to take an extra touch and was forced wide.
In the 10th minute, Edouard recieved a head knock after a wayward knee from Alex Rodriguez made impact and he was led off looking dazed, but, happily, he returned moments later.
Amazingly, referee Kevin Clancy booked Edouard following a clash of heads with Tom Aldred. It looked accidental, but the match official obviously deemed the Frenchman had led with an elbow.
The Fir Park defender, with blood streaming from a wound, went off to be replaced by Chris McHugh.
HEADMASTER…Odsonne Edouard bullets in Ewan Henderson’s right-wing cross for the second goal.
JOY BHOY…Edouard laps up the applause of the Celtic fans after the second goal.
Ewan Henderson was looking composed and tidy with his deliveries and showed a neat touch in the 27th minute to get to the right touchline, but the Well defence smuggled his cross to safety with Sinclair waiting to pounce.
The maverick English attacker had more luck in the 31st minute when he struck to open the scoring with a well-worked goal.
Tierney pulled the ball back to Ryan Christie who swept a first-timed left-footed angled cross from the left to the far post where Sinclair was lurking with menace.
The raider acrobatically met the ball on the drop time with his right foot to steer an unstoppable effort beyond the helpless Mark Gillespie.
It was Sinclair’s 17th goal of a prolific campaign that hiccuped at the start before he got into his stride.
Three minutes later, Forrest fed a pass into the tracks of the galloping Edouard who tried to nudge the ball into the corner, but the Well keeper was quick to block the close-range effort.
HOOP HOOP HOORAY…Odsonne Edouard is congratulated by Jeremy Toljan, Kieran Tierney and James Forrest.
However, in the 37th minute, the Hoops doubled their advantage when Henderson, following an inch-perfect slide-rule pass forward from Dedryck Boyata, produced a marvellous cross from the right and Edouard arrived with impeccable timing to bullet in a header which screamed into the net from six yards with Gillespie motionless.
The keeper defied Forrest shortly afterwards when the winger snapped onto another delightful pass from Henderson and thumped in a near-post drive.
Gillespie was alert, though, and moved swiftly to his left to push the ball to safety.
Half-time arrived with the champions moving the ball about sweetly and looking comfortable against a team that had won their previous six games.
FLASHPOINT…Ryan Christie is crocked and awaiting treatment, the moment that sparked controversy at Parkhead.
In the 50th minute, Christie was forced off and Well didn’t give the ball back to Celtic when play restarted. Brendan Rodgers was waiting to put on substitute Jack Hendry.
If Celtic expected their opponents to act like sportsmen, they were sadly disappointed.
The champions defence was caught out totally as the Lanarkshire outfit broke forward through James Scott who fired a low shot on target. Scott Bain did well to react and get down swiftly to his right to push the effort away, but, alas, Gboly Ariyibi followed up to knock the ball into the inviting net. It was the first goal the keeper had conceded in 15 domestic games.
ANGER…Kristoffer Ajer is calmed down by Jonny Hayes after a clash with Motherwell’s Jake Hastie.
FURY…Dedryck Boyata lets the Well players know what he thinks about their unsportsmanlike behaviour as referee Kevin Clancy intervenes.
Kristoffer Ajer was clearly raging and the Norwegian was booked after a clattering challenge was swiftly punished by the referee who had also shown back-to-back yellow cards to Well double-act Richard Tait and Rodriguez.
Boos were ringing around Celtic Park every time the ball went near a visiting player, but, worryingly, the rhythm had been lost in Celtic’s play at this stage.
In the 65th minute, Gillespie made a full-length save to his right as he pushed away a delicate 20-yard free-kick from Henderson.
Three minutes later, the understandably-tiring Tierney was replaced with Jonny Hayes, who played so well against Valencia on Thursday, coming on in his place.
The defender handed the captain’s armband to Forrest as the Hoops reorganised..
GIVE ME STRENGTH…Brendan Rodgers clearly doesn’t agree with yet another decision from the linesman.
FREEWAY TO THREE POINTS…Odsonne Edoaurd’s brilliant free-kick thunders into the roof of the net for No.3.
The assistant referee – known as “Red Card Ross” after his performance at Ibrox 11 months ago when Jozo Simunovic was sent off – was making a stream of questionable decisions and clearly upset the manager and the support when he signalled a foul from Hayes on a Well player when it looked as though the opponent had simply lost his footing.
In the 77th minute, there was the sad sight of substitute McHugh being stretchered off with Liam Donnelly coming on. Sportingly, the Celtic support applauded the exit of the Well defender.
Toljan then went into the book in the 82nd minute for a wayward tackle on goalscorer Ariyibi.
In the 84th minute, Rodgers introduced Oliver Burke for Bitton who also looked as though he was suffering after his lengthy lay-off.
HAPPY DAZE…Oliver Burke runs away after slotting in the fourth goal.
After an afternoon of dodgy challenges, Allan Campbell was at last booked in the 87th minute.
Justice was done when Edouard stepped up from 30 yards and rifled the deadball award high into the keeper’s top right-hand corner of the net.
Somehow it seemed so fitting that a foul from a persistent offender should bring such a decisive goal.
And on the 90th-minute mark, Burke made his mark when he swept in a neat pass from Forrest to make certain the Hoops collected three more points as they kept on track for eight in a row.
Now it’s a case of bring on Hearts at Tynecastle on Wednesday!
TEAM: Bain; Toljan, Boyata, Ajer, Tierney (sub: Hayes 68); Bitton (sub: Burke 84), Henderson; Forrest, Christie (sub: Hendry 54), Sinclair; Edouard.