Neil Lennon went into this match knowing that his job was probably on the line. On the verge of winning five trophies on the bounce since taking over from Brendan Rodgers, it is a strange position for a manager to find himself, but this is Celtic and a historic season. Recent performances haven’t been good and nor have results. Lennon needed improvements in both departments today and he got his wish.
Celtic started the game with purpose. The Hoops registered their first shot on target inside five minutes and took the lead in the seventh. Albian Ajeti, in for Odsonne Edouard, stole the ball in front of the defender and hita great effort against the inside of the post. Mohamed Elyounoussi was on hand to touch home the rebound with his thigh, the perfect way to answer the criticism he received for being on his phone when he was subbed on Thursday night.
Scott Brown was back to his industrious self, looking sharp and as if he had rekindled his energy. He did a fine job of screening the defence and keeping it simple. Broony played a real captain’s role and showed his worth to this team when he is on his game. The real star performer of the first half was Tom Rogic though. He just oozes class with those magical feet and a first touch which kills the ball dead in an instant. The Australian danced into the box to set up Elyounoussi for his second on 27 minutes. The Norwegian struck the ball low into the corner of the net from the edge of the six yard box, putting Celtic 2-0 ahead and earning Rogic his sixth assist in the last couple of weeks!
Celtic remained on top throughout the first half, though Motherwell did get a little joy by overloading on Jeremie Frimpong down their left hand side. Fortunately, it was all to no avail. There was one more flashpoint of note in the first half when, moments before the whistle, Rogic plucked the ball out of the sky from a Motherwell corner and spun as he brought it into his possession. He then embarked on a driving run, skipping past the challenge of a Motherwell midfielder and playing the pass to Christie on the left edge of the box at the perfect time. Christie cut in on his weaker right foot and blazed over the bar to squander a magnificent opportunity.
The second half was a little bit more even. Celtic started brightly and Laxalt put a tantalising cross into the box, which just evaded Ajeti. The Uruguayan was then called to action at the opposite end, making a last gasp slide tackle to thwart Tony Watt at the back post. Moments later the braided full back was on hand to clear Gallagher’s effort off the line as Motherwell exploited Celtic’s defensive defencies from another corner kick.
Celtic weathered the storm to create opportunities of their own. Tom Rogic whipped a lovely ball in for Ajeti which went inches wide, but the Steelmen remained a threat on the counter. Indeed, Tony Watt had a really good opportunity to score with a side footed volley when he felt himself free at the back stick as Laxalt was caught with two men. Unfortunately for him, his shot hit his own player.
Celtic had looked more assured at the back with Ajer returning to the team in place of Duffy, but there were still frailties as the opportunities Motherwell had at times demonstrated. A free kick just in front of the half way line was slung into the Celtic box and Gallagher rose above Bitton to head the ball into the far corner. Bain was scrambling but unable to get near it. This goal just highlighted Celtic’s frailties from set pieces, which needs to be addressed imminently.
Many a team would have crumbled under the pressure having conceded, but the Bhoys showed good strength of character to go about their business and restore the two goal advantage within four minutes. Elhamed, on as a substitute for Frimpong, who was victim of a disgusting tackle which somehow only received a yellow card, overlapped Christie and put in a tidy cross for Elyounoussi. Moi had much to do but leapt like a salmon to head the ball down into the net from a good 12 yards or so. It was a magnificent goal to seal a hat-trick.
The points were secure with a 3-1 lead after 76 minutes, but there was a little concern as Ajer went down injured. He has missed the last two games through a groin strain and had to be replaced by Duffy. Hopefully it’s not serious and he can recover over the international break. Odsonne Edouard was also introduced for Albian Ajeti around this time. The Swissman looked frustrated to leave the pitch, but he hadn’t produced an awful lot aside from his shot leading up to the first goal.
Olivier Ntcham came on for Rogic in the last few minutes and scored his first goal for some time with a neat side foot from inside the area, after good work by Edouard. The goal capped off a good win for Celtic.
Overall, Neil Lennon can be pleased with the attitude and application of his team. Celtic were worthy winners and looked very good in attack. Rogic, Brown, Laxalt and Elyounoussi stood out, whilst Nir Bitton’s distribution from the back was tremendous. The Israeli’s long switches from centre half to Laxalt on the left were a joy to watch at times. That said, despite the defence looking better with Ajer in for Duffy, there were still too many opportunities being conceded and another set piece goal given away.
Celtic can be pleased with the reaction today, but still have room for improvement. International week awaits and on returning to Lennoxtown, the players must remain focused. There can be no more Jekyll and Hyde performances.
"I've never had so many chances against Celtic…"
Motherwell manager, Stephen Robinson says 'individual errors' were the cause for their 1 – 4 defeat to Celtic at Fir Park.
— BBC Sport Scotland (@BBCSportScot) November 8, 2020