Norwegian forward Moi Elyounoussi silenced his critics last Sunday with a magnificent hat-trick in Celtic’s comfortable 4-1 victory at Motherwell. The Norwegian international copped plenty of stick from fans and media alike having been spotted browsing on his mobile phone from the bench having been substituted during Celtic’s dismal 4-1 loss to Sparta Prague in the Europa League.
Some insisted that it demonstrated a lack of commitment to the Celtic cause and disrespect to his fellow team-mates, but Elyounoussi responded in the best way possible to score three times at Fir Park. In the post-match interview, whilst clutching the match ball, Elyounoussi insisted that “no-one should question [his]commitment” to the Bhoys. He revealed that he was using his mobile phone during the Sparta game to check on the other results in Celtic’s Europa League group, most notably the clash between Lille and AC Milan.
Given the frustrations of a third straight home defeat and a disappointing showing against their Czech opponents, Elyounoussi certainly bore the brunt of the press and (some) fans alike after the BT Sport cameras picked up the Norwegian front man using his device while the match continued in front of him.
Elyounoussi’s Fir Park fireworks were the perfect retort to the press
Elyounoussi insisted that he is a “very professional” character and that he was “frustrated and disappointed” that certain sections of the media were prepared to call that into question. Nevertheless, he added that the best way to respond to any criticism from the media or the Celtic faithful was “with [his]feet”.
Eight goals in 21 Celtic appearances would suggest that he is starting to repay the faith shown in him by Hoops boss Neil Lennon. After a goalless spell with Southampton, the switch to Glasgow appears to have rejuvenated the Moroccan-born ace, who could yet be the joker in Lennon’s pack to try and regain top spot in the SPL. Steven Gerrard’s theRangers are currently nine points clear at the top of the table, having played two games more than their bitter rivals.
A so-called ‘theRangers renaissance’, as dubbed by Marathonbet’s Scottish football betting tipsters, was still a long-shot at the start of the season, but the prospect of Celtic relinquishing their grip on the Scottish Premiership to Steven Gerrard and co. is becoming more worrying by the week. Having conceded just three goals in their opening 14 games, averaging over two-and-a-half goals per game at the other end too, there can be no denying that Celtic are embarking on their stiffest title challenge in years.
There is no doubt that Lennon will need his first-choice contingent fit and firing for most of the campaign if they are to overhaul theRangers. That’s why it’s such good news that powerful full back Jeremie Frimpong has not sustained ligament damage following a horror tackle by Motherwell forward Devante Cole. Frimpong had to be substituted and there were fears post-match that he could be sidelined for some time. Such is the inconsistency of refereeing in the modern game that Cole’s challenge on Frimpong was only deemed worthy of a yellow card.
A crunch fortnight looms large for Lennon’s men
Celtic’s first Scottish Premiership game back after the international break will tell Lennon a lot about whether his team can turn up the heat on theRangers. A tricky trip to Easter Road and Hibernian awaits, with Hibs making a very impressive start to the campaign themselves averaging almost two points a game from their opening 13 fixtures. That’s followed by back-to-back Europa League games, including the return fixture with Sparta Prague and a visit to AC Milan in their Group H ‘Group of Death’.
Victory over Hibernian could move Celtic closer to theRangers, particularly given that the Gers are set to face third-placed Aberdeen after the international break. The Dons are only three points behind Celtic at present and could be one of the few teams capable of ending theRangers’ unbeaten run ahead of Celtic’s first visit to Ibrox early next year.