Celtic recovered from the loss of an early goal to thrash Motherwell and consolidate their rampant start to the Scottish Premiership season.
They had been held on their last three visits to Fir Park and had to survive a torrid start, with Scott Bain letting Liam Donnelly’s shot squirm in.
But Kristoffer Ajer quickly levelled and Leigh Griffiths’ free-kick nudged Celtic ahead at the break. Goals from James Forrest, Odsonne Edouard and Ryan Christie then eased the visitors clear before a late Donnelly consolation.
Motherwell, who unsettled Celtic early with their high-energy pressing game, faded though and Celtic were rampant in the second half as they took their goal tally to 12 after the first two league fixtures.
‘Celtic will do this to many teams this season’
After their seven-goal deconstruction of St Johnstone last week, this was supposed to be a game of a very different kind for the champions. Stephen Robinson’s team, a group that had begun the season well and who would have come into this in great heart, had caused them problems in their recent visits to Fir Park.
It ended in a drubbing, but Celtic are going to iNFLict this kind of punishment on many teams this season. They were ruthless again. They didn’t quite hit the free-flowing creative heights of last weekend, but they still managed a handful of goals. Ominous. Seriously ominous.
The weird thing is that Motherwell had the better of it early on. In the opening exchanges, they were not just excellent, they were in the lead. Donnelly, Allan Campbell and Liam Polworth were dominant in the middle of the pitch. Celtic, with Christopher Jullien making his first appearance in domestic football and Boli Bolingoli continuing at left-back, looked vulnerable until they all found their rhythm and the goals started to come in waves.
The one that put Motherwell ahead began with a crossfield ball from Polworth, which was nodded down by Declan Gallagher to Donnelly. His volley was well-hit, but Scott Bain’s attempt to stop it was poor. It went in at his near post. Donnelly, an attacking force until Celtic took hold of things, took his tally to five goals in five games this season with that strike. His sixth came at the end. What an asset this converted defender will be for Robinson this season.
Motherwell had to consolidate there and then. They had to frustrate Celtic and give them few chances and few reasons to believe. Easier said than done, of course. Their resistance lasted barely two minutes when Forrest played in Kristoffer Ajer, the stand-in right-back arriving like a gazelle to plant his shot past Mark Gillespie.
Lennon’s team motored on from there. Just before the break, from a free-kick 22 yards out, Gillespie left a gap to his left and practically invited Griffiths to bang it in there, which he duly did. Some Motherwell fans complained about the awarding of the free-kick in the first place, but their ire shouldn’t have been solely reserved for referee Nick Walsh.
Celtic scored again just after the hour-mark when Ntcham, LeWIS Morgan and Bolingoli helped to get it to Forrest, who shifted feet and then struck his shot in off the post – Celtic’s 10th league goal in little over a game and a half.
Their 11th, and 12th, arrived soon after; Edouard with a class finish pinged into the corner past Gillespie. It was all a touch cruel on Motherwell and crueller still when Edouard won a deserved penalty after Donnelly took him down. Christie, who had come on for Forrest, did what every last soul in Fir Park knew he would do and executed with no fuss. Five goals to add to the seven of last week.
Donnelly smashed in a second for Motherwell, but rarely will a player feel so glum despite playing so well and scoring twice against Celtic. Lennon’s team have sent out another forceful message. They won the treble again last season. They look even better this season.
Man of the match – James Forrest
If you were dishing it out after half an hour, you’d have been tempted by Donnelly’s claim, but once Celtic moved through the gears a number of Lennon’s team emerged.
The central midfield took hold of things, the attack became razor sharp and even though he came off fairly early – saved for Europe next week – Forrest was pivotal. He played the key pass for the first and scored the third. Forrest won’t be outdone by the other attackers in this formidable Celtic machine.
‘We didn’t have fitness to keep up’ – reaction
“If we press teams like that in the first half, we’ll win more than we lose. But if you make individual errors for four of the five goals, you’re going to get punished.”
Celtic manager Neil Lennon: “I’m delighted. It was an outstanding team performance with some outstanding individual performances as well.
“In the first 15 minutes, there were a few bad habits creeping in that we want to eradicate. We were inviting pressure we didn’t need to. Once we solved that we were outstanding.”
- 20GillespieBooked at 85mins
- 31GallagherBooked at 45mins
- 2TaitBooked at 83mins
- 22DonnellyBooked at 85mins
- 11SeedorfSubstituted forIlicat 45′minutes
- 9LongSubstituted forColeat 62′minutes
- 14HyltonBooked at 71minsSubstituted forScottat 71′minutes
- 21NtchamSubstituted forSinclairat 79′minutes
- 49ForrestSubstituted forChristieat 67′minutes
- 9GriffithsSubstituted forEdouardat 62′minutes
- Nick Walsh
- Shots on Target
Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Christopher Jullien.
Attempt blocked. Devante Cole (Motherwell) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Attempt blocked. Liam Donnelly (Motherwell) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Foul by Liam Grimshaw (Motherwell).
Liam Donnelly (Motherwell) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Penalty conceded by Liam Donnelly (Motherwell) after a foul in the penalty area.
Richard Tait (Motherwell) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Richard Tait (Motherwell).
Christian Ilic (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Liam Grimshaw (Motherwell) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the left.
Devante Cole (Motherwell) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt missed. Liam Polworth (Motherwell) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left.
Substitution, Motherwell. James Scott replaces Jermaine Hylton.
Jermaine Hylton (Motherwell) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Jermaine Hylton (Motherwell).
Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo.
Attempt saved. Jermaine Hylton (Motherwell) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.
Liam Polworth (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Motherwell. Devante Cole replaces Chris Long.
Christian Ilic (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.