Celtic 2 Motherwell 0
The contenders for the Scottish title remain separated by a single goal after Celtic’s 2-0 home victory over Motherwell was duplicated by Rangers at Livingston. The situation will be sustained until at least November 23 when Celtic meet Livingston in the east end of Glasgow, while Rangers are on the road again the following day for a lunchtime start at Hamilton.
At Parkhead, the visit of Motherwell was preceded by celebration and commemoration and sustained applause for the announcement that Scott Brown would make his 350th appearance for Celtic was followed by an immaculately observed minute’s silence on the occasion of Remembrance Sunday.
After the Scottish champions’ singular achievement in beating Lazio in Rome – the first time a Hoops side had ever beaten Italian opposition in Italy – it was not a surprise that, by their customary standards, Celtic were relatively sluggish.
Neil Lennon had hinted that there might be bench appearances for Leigh Griffiths and Mikey Johnston but neither materialised and the only changes to the side that prevailed in the Stadio Olimpico saw Olivier Ntcham rewarded for scoring his injury time winner by coming in for Ryan Christie, while Jeremie Frimpong replaced the injured Hatem Elhamed at right-back. Motherwell, who had been displaced by Aberdeen in third place 24 hours earlier, made three switches of personnel, with Bevis Mugabi, Barry Maguire and Richard Tait in for the suspended Liam Donnelly, Peter Hartley, who was ill, and Jermaine Hylton, dropped to the bench.
Celtic pressed Motherwell early but their drop in sharpness was signalled by Mohamed Elyounoussi when put clear on the edge of the Motherwell box. The midfielder might have gone for a quick shot but tried to beat Declan Gallagher and was dispossessed, to groans of frustration from the crowd.
The party atmosphere resumed within two minutes, however, when James Forrest jinked into the Motherwell penalty area and slipped a pass inside to Odsonne Edouard, whose muscular finish soared high beyond Mark Gillespie into the net.
The half hour mark arrived with news that Rangers were also 1-0 up at the Tony Macaroni Arena and Celtic continued to forage in pursuit of goals to widen their advantage, but Edouard and Elyounoussi – both prompted by the lively Forrest – struck their efforts well over the target. Six minutes after the break, on the as-it-stands table, Rangers drew level with Celtic on goals scored and conceded, but parity lasted only for three minutes until Edouard sent Jonny Hayes scampering scampering forward to deliver a driven cross through the goalmouth.
Tait was in the line of fire and his attempt to hook clear only crashed the ball into his own net. The rest of the contest was low key and although Motherwell made changes that saw them appear more frequently around the Celtic goal, they could not prevent the home side from becoming the first team to post four successive clean sheets in Scottish Premiership this season.
“We created brilliant opportunities and we had good control,” Lennon said. “It’s another fantastic performance after Thursday. Since the Livingston defeat, we’ve won all our games in all competitions so the response has been magnificent.
“Jonny Hayes has had a great couple of days. We’re not surprised because he’s been showing this in training, so we’re absolutely delighted with his contribution and I was delighted with Ntcham as well.
Celtic (4-2-3-1): Forster; Frimpong, Jullien, Ajer, Hayes; Brown, McGregor; Forrest (Christie 67), Ntcham, Elyounoussi (Morgan 85); Edouard.
Subs not used: Gordon (g), Taylor, Bitton, Bauer, Rogic.
Motherwell (4-4-2): Gillespie; Grimshaw, Gallagher, Mugabi, Tait (Hylton 67); Campbell, Polworth, Maguire, Carrol, Long (Seedorf 67), Cole (Scott).
Subs not used: Carson (g), Sloth, Mazinga, Hylton, Semple.
Referee: Alan Muir.