MOTHERWELL 2 CELTIC 5
CELTIC came alive with five goals from five different scorers as they dodged a banana skin at Fir Park this afternoon.
The champions were slow to start and gifted Well a goal advantage before waking up to the very real threat of throwing away three points in a slipshod performance.
Suddenly, they clicked into action, found their rhythm, got the opponents’ goal in their sights and Kristoffer Ajer, Leigh Griffiths, James Forrest, Odsonne Edouard and Ryan Christie, with an unstoppable penalty-kick, went on the rampage as Neil Lennon watched his side notch up TWELVE goals after only two Premiership outings following the 7-0 opening day rout against St Johnstone.
Add THIRTEEN goals from five Champions League qualifiers and the Celtic firing squad is ticking over with the precision of a Rolls-Royce.
The same cannot be said of the defence, alas, that continues to concede soft goals – as they proved on two occasions at Fir Park – although, to be fair, this would never be the manager’s ideal rearguard.
Right from the kick-off, a makeshift Hoops line-up failed to settle and there was no surprise when Well opened the scoring in the 12th minute. They had looked more lively and more hungry than the visitors as they snapped into challenges all over the pitch.
GOAL-DEN BHOY…Kristoffer Ajer races away after hitting the equaliser.
With the back-four still looking as though they were trying to memorise each other’s names, there was a bit of confusion over who should be doing what.
Stephen Robinson’s men were well up for adding to their discomfort and they pushed Sherwin Seedorf practically on top of Boli Bolingoli who will have to learn very quickly about how to adapt to the pace of the Scottish game.
The breakthrough goal arrived in the 12th minute and, sad to say, it didn’t make Scott Bain look too clever as it escaped his grasp low to his left. Bolingoli was drawn inside before a long diagonal pass found Declan Gallagher unguarded on the left. The centre-back was unhindered as he nodded the ball down to Liam Donnelly lurking with menace on the edge of the penalty box.
He swept in an effort, but it lacked oomph and looked eminently saveable for the Hoops keeper. Disastrously, he seemed to react too slowly and the effort crept in as he sprawled across his goal.
The Well players celebrated big-style, but within two minutes the champions were level and all the credit must go to the alert anticiption and eager determination of Ajer, playing wide on the right of the defence in place of the injured Hatem Abd Elhamed.
The towering Norwegian, 15 yards inside his own half, passed quickly and precisely to Forrest and then embarked upon a lung-bursting run that carried him into Well territory. He thundered on towards the danger zone, accepted a pass from Forrest and galloped into the box before enticing Mark Gillespie from his line and slotting the ball into the inviting net.
It was a thing of beauty and the defender had every right to accept the acclaim from the delighted – and relieved – team-mates and fans. He deserved the accolade.
It was a lifeline for the visitors who had looked a little sloppy in possession and Lewis Morgan and Bolingoli were proving to be anything but the double-act from heaven on the left wing.
DEADBALL DYNAMO…Leigh Griffiths lashes home the second goal from a free-kick.
HAPPY DAZE…Griffiths is all smiles after his goal.
GROUNDED…Griffiths sits out after sustaining an injury just before the interval.
Events turned dramatically in the Hoops’ favour in the 41st minute when Griffiths was hauled to the deck by Gallagher and the inevitable free-kick was awarded about 25 yards out. The returning hero – who else? – elected to take the set-play and once again he thrashed a superb effort low beyond the diving Gillespie into his left-hand corner.
Once again, it was an exquisite piece of precision from Griffiths and he raced to the Celtic end behind Bain’s goal to celebrate with the supporters.
He took a knock just before the interval, but, thankfully, he was okay to carry on in the second-half.
Lennon’s men continued to roll forward relentlessly and Ajer and Forrest had shots blocked by a team with a lot of bodies behind the ball.
Just after the hour mark, Griffiths went off to a well-deserved ovation from the travelling support and Edouard entered the action. As the game wore on, the Hoops boss also introduced Christie for Forrest and Scott Sinclair for Olivier Ntcham, who rivalled Ajer for the Man of the Match award.
THREE CHEERS…James Forrest (second left) leaves the Well rearguard shredded at the third goal.
EASY DOES IT…Forrest is delighted with his effort.
In the 66th minute, the champions scored a wonderfully-executed third goal when Bolingoli and Morgan combined on the left and the Belgian slipped a pass inside to Forrest.
As ever, the Scotland international refused to panic and rush his shot, took a couple of touches and then flashed a low left-foot angled drive away from the stranded Gillespie.
FRENCH FANCY…Odsonne Edouard turns away after slipping home No.4.
Ten minutes later, Edouard scored the fourth with nonchalant grace after Bolingoli had passed crisply to Ntcham who knocked the ball across goal with the outside of his right foot. Defender Charles Dunne failed to intercept the cross, the £10million Frenchman was onto it in a flash.
Edouard tamed the ball with one foot and then curled a right-foot effort with consummate ease low into Gillespie’s corner of the net as the shotstopper once again had to admit defeat.
Four minutes from the end, Edouard was bowled over in the box by Donnelly and refree Nick Walsh had little option but to point to the spot.
BUNCH OF FIVES…Ryan Christie expertly thumps in the fifth goal in the Fir Park romp.
Christie stepped up and hammered the ball high into the roof of the net for a textbook penalty-kick. A platoon of keepers wouldn’t have kept that drive out of the net.
Annoyingly, the home side snatched a second goal in stoppage time and, worryingly, Christopher Jullien was beaten far too easily in the air by Gallagher as he outjumped him to a right-wing corner-kick. The ball dropped to Donnelly and he fired it beyond the startled Bain.
Some questions remain unanswered, but, at least, the goals are flowing and we must hope we can get the one that matters when Cluj arrive at Parkhead for the return Champions League third round qualifier on Tuesday.
TEAM: Bain; Ajer, Bitton, Jullien, Bolingoli; Brown, McGregor; Forrest (sub: Christie 66), Ntcham (sub: Sinclair 79), Morgan; Griffiths (sub: Edouard 62).