Celtic are back at the top of the SPL after an excellent win against Motherwell tonight
Ronny Deila’s Bhoys went into the game two points behind league leaders Aberdeen, but with two matches in hand. This was one of them, and fans had cause to be nervous after our previous appearances against The Steelmen this season.
Yet, from the start, this one looked different. The match began with Celtic on the ascendant, moving the ball forward at pace and fighting for every loose ball. The team has had an extra edge to it in recent games, and this was evident from the way we got underway here. Motherwell barely troubled Celtic all through the first half, almost all of which was spent in their half.
For all that, the first twenty five minutes of the game was frustrating for Hoops fans to watch, as the away team defending desperately and Celtic failed to put the ball in the net. Despite our superiority in possession, the only statistic that really mattered was the 0-0 scoreline.
That changed – and so did the nature of the game – when Virgil Van Dijk opened the scoring in the 26th minute, with a neat back post header. It was deserved, well deserved. It would have been a travesty for this game to have gone in at half time without a goal for the home team. Our dominance in this one had been nearly total.
Motherwell had to come out now, and they enjoyed a spell towards the end of the half, but that proved costly when Celtic broke up the left and a cross ball into the box found the predatory Leigh Griffiths who proved, and not for the first time, that he is the club’s best finisher, as he headed the ball into the far corner of the net, a few minutes before the whistle.
Celtic went into the break, then, sitting on a 2-0 lead, which had the fans inside the stadium feeling pretty pleased with what they’d seen from their side.
Celtic made a substitution at half time, with Lustig coming on for Matthews, something every fan would have welcomed as the Swede has been one of our most consistent performers in the last few years, and his absence has been noted down the right flank.
The second half opened the way the first had ended, with a flurry of Celtic opportunities. A quarter hour after the re-start Stefan Johansen should have made it three, but his header hit the post, and he had another effort well saved a few minutes later.
Shortly after that, another Celtic player returned to the pitch as James Forrest came on for Anthony Stokes. When Scepovic came on a few minutes later, for Johansen, fans might have been forgiven for thinking that the game might wind down, with Celtic content to hold onto the 2-0.
They’d have been wrong. In 75 minutes, Lustig, the Bhoy who Returned struck, after James Forrest played the ball to him. His left footed shot found the right of the net, and Celtic were 3-0 ahead.
Lustig went on to have an inspired end to the game, and with ten minutes to go he had made it four, after Leigh Griffiths set him up. Five minutes after that he became the second Celtic player to hit the woodwork, denying him a hat-trick and a perfect ten return.
This was a performance right out of the top drawer, the kind the Celtic fans have been waiting for at home. It would have been good to see a striker getting on the score-sheet, but a 4-0 win to go top of the league is nothing to be sneezed at.
The doubters, and the hack pack, who had predicted all manner of negative outcomes for Ronny Deila and his team are one step closer to eating their words.
The Bhoys are back at the top of the table.