Scintillating Celtic serve Rangers an ominous title notice via another avalanche of goals – big match verdict


It might have taken Celtic until Wednesday to reach the summit but they are clearly enjoying the view from the top.

At Fir Park yesterday they served clinical notice they’ve no intention of making their way back down any time soon.

It might be a bleak midwinter but Ange Postecoglou’s men arrived in Lanarkshire basking in the warmth of the Old Firm victory that was built on a scintillating first-half display and went out and did it all over again.

Just as they’d done to Rangers, they buried Motherwell under an avalanche of three first-half goals and this time went one better by adding a fourth after the break.

By the end, Graham Alexander’s side just wanted the final whistle.

Right from the off, it threatened to be a long afternoon for them as Celtic swept forward in waves of attack.

Liam Kelly was forced into his first save – a good one at that – in under two minutes.

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A move sparked by the still-masked Callum McGregor and involving Tom Rogic ended with the Aussie cutting back for Liel Abada to smash a shot the keeper did well to block with his legs.

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Motherwell’s best hope in the early period was Celtic being overly elaborate when in possession at the back but when they did beat the home press, the visitors bristled with dangerous intent.

While Daizen Maeda was fairly quiet on the left, the same couldn’t be said for Abada on the other side.

The Israeli enjoyed plenty of possession and while his final delivery wasn’t always on the money, he was posing Alexander’s men a problem.

To be fair though, Motherwell got through the opening 20 minutes with Celtic failing to test Kelly again and as they began to settle into the game, more passes of their own began to stick.

Stephen O’Donnell was leading by example, containing Maeda but also igniting a spell of pressure that saw his team force a couple of corners and spend time deep in Celtic territory for the first spell in the match.

Tom Rogic sent Celtic on their way to victory with a double
Tom Rogic sent Celtic on their way to victory with a double

Motherwell’s growing confidence left more spaces in behind though and Celtic exploited that cunningly, Rogic gliding into the right channel and cutting the ball back for Giorgios Giakioumakis to smash in a drive that Kelly did well to save with his legs for the second time in the match . If that was Celtic knocking on the door, they kicked it in seconds later and it was really no surprise the 28th-minute opener came from Abada.

The winger’s ability to come in off the right and arrive in the middle of the goal to finish with the composition of a seasoned striker had seen Abada score 13 before kick-off. The 14th was notched in identical fashion.

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Abada waited and waited – and then darted forward to take Reo Hatate’s curling cross from the left in his stride and the strike was never in doubt after that.

Two minutes later, Abada had added his 11th assist of the campaign to his impressive numbers, although even he would admit his role in the second goal was very much a bit-part.

This one belonged to Rogic and Rogic alone.

Taking Abada’s pass into his feet about 22 yards from goal, Rogic quickly shifted it with one touch to give him space and the second touch was sublime, sending the ball arcing over Kelly’s flailing right arm into the top corner.

Having lost two in two minutes, Motherwell’s mission was to reach the break without any further damage.

They couldn’t do it – undone again by the Abada-Rogic combination on the stroke of the interval.

Liel Abada celebrates his goal

The little Israeli drove to the dead ball line for the umpteenth time and had the awareness to look up and pick out the inrushing Rogic – even though the Aussie never seems to rush – and the finish into the top corner was
absolutely clinical.

The good news for Motherwell was that Abada was kept indoors at the break, as was Hatate.

The bad news was that at 3-0 the game was finished and the subs – James Forrest and Nir Bitton – were hardly serious downgrades.

The home side made a trio of changes with Kaiyne Woolery, Ross Tierney and Joe Efford coming on for Kevin van Veen, Sean Goss and Jake Carroll.

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Efford, making his debut playing in behind Woolery, tested Hart with a deflected shot that the keeper clawed to safety. It was a rare moment of concern for Celtic, who were soon racing to the other end after a crunching Ralston tackle on Nathan McGinley had set Giakoumakis free on the right.

A couple of passes later, McGregor was smacking a drive inches over from the edge of the box and normal service was resumed.

McGregor and Giakoumakis, who had been booked minutes earlier, were given the last half hour off.

Jota and Matt O’Riley appeared to ensure Motherwell’s defense wouldn’t have the same luxury.

Kelly’s third save of the day with his legs was his best, denying Forrest the fourth goal after Greg Taylor had dinked a cross onto the winger’s head.

The fourth goal was merely delayed until the 71st minute, though.

O’Reilly’s pass sent Maeda, now playing centrally, through on goal and although Bevis Mugabi got back to block his shot, it spun high in the air and over Kelly.

Celtic were rampant. The post denied Rogic his hat-trick but not the man-of-the-match award. He was sensational – and he wasn’t alone.




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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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