MOTHERWELL 1 CELTIC 4
THERE seems no way to keep Mohamed Elyounsoussi out of the news these days with his exploits – on or off the pitch.
On Thursday, he incurred the wrath of angry Neil Lennon after he was caught on film looking at his mobile phone after being substituted in the 4-1 debacle against Sparta Prague.
Today, thankfully, it was his three-goal contribution during actual play that helped him to get the headlines.
Before the crucial encounter against Motherwell at Fir Park, the Hoops boss and the Norwegian international kissed and made up – and Elyounoussi displayed his gratitude with an excellent display in a must-win confrontation.
A two goal salvo inside the first half-hour took the pressure off the boss and his team-mates and settled the nerve-ends that have jangled around the east end of Glasgow since the horror show against the Czechs.
Tom Rogic, wearing his dancing feet against Stephen Robinson’s mesmerised outfit, played his part, too, as the champions set about picking up three vitally-important points in their quest for 10 in a row.
BHOY, OH BHOY…Mohamed Elyounoussi is congratulated by Jeremie Frimpong.
THE FIRST goal arrived in only eight minutes after the Hoops had opened in determined fashion, showing a fair amount of verve and purpose as they took the game to Well.
Ryan Christie got the move flowing when he snatched the ball off Liam Polworth who dithered on the edge of the box. Albian Ajeti snapped onto the pass and drove a low angled effort wide of the sprawling Aaron Chapman.
There was a groan for a moment as the ball clattered off the inside of the far upright, but Elyounoussi was alert as displayed lightning reflexes to fire the rebound into the net from close range.
THE SECOND strike came in the 27th minute and the on-loan Southampton attacker finished off a sweet move that saw the ball switched from Scott Bain, Kristoffer Ajer, Callum McGregor and Christie before the ball finally arrive at the twinkle toes of Rogic.
With nonchalant ease, he swept away from two challenges as he made his way to the bye-line. Without breaking his stride, he picked out Elyounoussi and once more the strike was clean as it nestled low into the far corner of Chapman’s net.
THE THIRD in the 76th minute was the pick of the bunch. Nir Bitton releases sub Hatem Abd Elhamed on the right and the Israeli international fired a high cross into the box.
Elyounoussi’s timing was immaculate as he took to the air to make perfect contact with the cross to bullet an unstoppable 12-yard header beyond the helpless Chapman.
Substitute Olivier Ntcham, with his first strike since February, rounded off a great day for the champions and once again Elyounoussi was involved in the build-up before Odsonne Edouard rolled a pass into the tracks of his fellow-Frenchman.
The midfielder simply guided the ball wide of the stranded Chapman and the points were heading for the east end of Glasgow.
Christie squandered the opportunity to give the team a three-goal interval advantage when he loved onto a neat Rogic pass, but he waywardly thumped his finishing effort over the bat from 16 yards when at the very least he should have hit the target.
HOOP HOOP HOORAY…a delighted Mohamed Elyounoussi.
In the 53rd minute, after refusing Celtic a corner-kick when Mark O’Hara cleared, referee Andrew Dallas made another bizarre judgement when he merely booked Devante Cole for an assault on Frimpong with a high challenge that floored the teenager. It was a straight red card offence, but the match official was content to show yellow. It was a diabolical decision.
Well gave Celtic a fight in the 72nd minute as they once again conceded from a set-play. A long 40-yard diagonal free-kick from Polworth saw Declan Gallagher rise above Bitton at the far post. He headed down to Bain’s right and the keeper looked slow to react as it crept in at his right-hand side.
Worryingly, it seems everything that is on target at the moment seems to find a way into the Hoops net.
Lennon introduced his substitutes as the second-half wore on and, as anticipated, Frimpong could not recover from the disgraceful attack from Cole and went off to be replaced by Elhamed in the 70th minute with Edouard also coming on for Ajeti.
Ajer limped off in the 78th minute with Shane Duffy taking his place in the middle of the rearguard and six minutes from the end Ntcham came on for the tiring Rogic who had put in a good shift.
Man of the Match award went to Elyounoussi who was simply unstoppable in this form.
Neil Lennon can now take a breather during the international break and get his plans in place for the league game against Hibs at Easter Road in two weeks’ time.
TEAM: Bain; Frimpong (sub: Elhamed 70) Bitton, Ajer (sub: Duffy 78), Laxalt; Brown, Christie, McGregor, Rogic (sub: Ntcham 86); Elyounoussi; Ajeti (sub: Edouard 70).