Celtic continued their ominously impressive start to the season with a 5-2 away win at Motherwell.
Story of the match
Although the Hoops expected a far sterner test than the one supplied by St Johnstone last weekend, they produced another highly impressive attacking performance to run out convincing winners.
The Steelmen actually started the game the brighter of the two sides, and deservedly took the lead on 12 minutes when Liam Donnelly latched onto to Declan Gallagher’s knock-down to fire past Scott Bain.
Despite falling behind early on and looking unsettled both in midfield at and the back, the champions soon took control, with James Forrest the key man in their recovery and eventual victory.
Forwards take control
Forrest slid through for Kristoffer Ajer to equalise a mere two minutes after the restart, and the Parkhead side were in front just before the break when Leigh Griffiths converted a signature free-kick from 20 yards.
The second half saw more of the same, with the champions continued dominance paying off when Forrest struck on the hour.
It is a mark of Celtic’s attacking depth that Neil Lennon was able to introduce Scott Sinclair, Odsonne Edouard and Ryan Christie as substitutes, with Edouard making the score 4-1 in the 76th-minute with a crisp angled finish.
Christie added a penalty four minutes from time after Edouard was fouled in the box before Donnelly grabbed an injury time consolation for the hosts.
Despite failing to record a victory in Lanarkshire for nearly three years, the Hoops recorded an emphatic win this time despite not playing to their full capabilities.
While the prospect of facing a fully functioning Celtic side will no doubt be a worry for the rest of the SPFL, a side which can score five away from home with a fairly average performance may be an even scarier prospect.
Takeaways from the match
Celtic’s firepower can compensate for average performances
This was a far from a vintage display from Celtic. However, the ominous signs are that a side containing Griffiths, Forrest, Christie and Edouard will sooner or later make an impact over the ninety minutes, regardless of the overall performance.
With 12 goals in two games, the defence can almost afford to be under par every now and then. Sterner tests in the shape of Rangers, Aberdeen and the Edinburgh sides are sure to come, but future opponents will be mindful that they may need to score two or three goals just to break even.
With the knowledge that the champions will almost certainly score at some point, there seems little point in sitting back and soaking up pressure. Will we, therefore, see teams attempting to take the game to Celtic more often this term? If so, high scoring affairs could become a regular occurrence.
No need to panic for the Steelmen, but improvement needed for big tests to come
While shipping five goals at home is always worrying, Motherwell needn’t fret too much.
There is frankly only one side in Scotland capable of dishing out that kind of treatment. Manager Stephen Robinson was therefore correct to stress the positives from the afternoon, telling a press conference: ”I thought we were outstanding in the first half.”
Robinson also pointed to the fact that with multiple new signings to bed in, things are likely to improve. However, the Lanarkside side could do with finding their form sooner rather than later. With visits from Hearts (in the Betfred Cup) and Hibernian to Fir Park bracketing an away Lanarkshire derby clash against Hamilton Academical all to come later this month, the Steelmen could do with a positive start to their campaign.
With none of these games suggesting an obvious favourite, we may well know what Motherwell’s season will look like by the end of this month.
Man of the Match: James Forrest
Despite being a regular for many seasons, Forrest properly came into his own for both club and country in 2018/19.
While stand-out performances such as today’s were previously only occasionally glimpsed, they now are becoming the norm.
At 28, Forrest is surely at his peak, and may be tempted to follow Kieran Tierney to England for a bumper payday.
However, the prospect of becoming a Celtic legend, should nine (and maybe 10) in a row occur maybe even more inviting. While it is highly unlikely that Forrest will ever be mentioned in the same breath as the Lisbon Lions, performances like today’s could well see him achieve a certain status among a younger generation of Celtic fans.