CELTIC 4 – 0 MOTHERWELL
TWO quickfire goals from sub Mikael Lustig sent Celtic soaring back to the top of the Premiership as they routed Motherwell at Parkhead.
Ronny Deila’s team were already coasting 2-0 at the interval through goals from Virgil van Dijk and Leigh Griffiths when the Swede made a dramatic entrance.
Dutchman Van Dijk got the opener in the 26th minute with a close-in header and Griffiths doubled the champions’ advantage three minutes before the interval.
It was a lopsided encounter with Stefan Johansen and Emilio Izaguirre both hitting the woodwork before Lustig, who replaced Adam Matthews at half-time, claimed No.3 in the 76th minute and added a fourth via a header five minutes later.
The right-back, making his first appearance since November after being sidelined through injury, almost claimed a rare hat-trick, but was out of luck with an effort that crashed against the crossbar.
Deilia’s men are now one point ahead of Aberdeen with a game in hand.
The Hoops boss brought back Anthony Stokes while Liam Henderson dropped out, despite scoring in the 2-0 win over Hamilton at the weekend.
Ex-Celt Stephen Pearson made his second debut for the visitors after signing for the Fir Park club until the end of the season.
Celtic showed their intent right from the start when Johansen sent a 25-yard drive zipping just wide of keeper Dan Twardzik’s left-hand post.
Stokes set up the breakthrough goal when he returned a corner-kick to the back post for Van Dijk to knock a header past the helpless Twardzik.
In the 42nd minute, the Irishman set up the second with an excellent cross that allowed Griffiths to head home.
Just before the hour mark, Johansen headed a cross from Izaguirre against the upright before a first-time drive from a Lustig cutback was well saved by Twardzik.
James Forrest replaced Stokes before Izaguirre blazed a shot against the bar after being set up by Griffiths.
Johansen and Mark O’Brien clashed heads in the 70th minute and were replaced by Stefan Scepovic and Craig Moore.
Lustig scrambled a shot in from a Forrest pass to make it 3-0 and then headed in a Griffiths cross for the fourth.
With the crowd willing him to capture the matchball, the crossbar blocked Lustig’s drive following a Kris Commons’ free-kick.
It was the only disappointment in a masterful display from the champions on a freezing cold winter’s evening in the east end of Glasgow.
TEAM: Gordon; Matthews (sub: Lustig 46), Denayer, Van Dijk, Izaguirre; Bitton, Brown; Stokes (sub: Forrest 64), Commons, Johansen (sub: Scepovic 70); Griffiths.