AS a box-ticking exercise, Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers could have filled a page of foolscap with the pluses from his team’s tossing aside of Motherwell to make their way into the quarter-finals of the Betfred League Cup.
Craig Samson made two or three excellent stops that prevented the visitors suffering as heavy a pasting they did on losing 7-0 at the ground on the final day of last season – on at least three different occasions. Much of Celtic’s irresistible pace and penetration was provided by Scott Sinclair, who looks like he could wreak untold havoc against Scottish defences. A solitary strike was modest reward for his efforts.
The new signing was abetted by goalscorer Tom Rogic and James Forrest, the winger following the Australian and signing a contract extension yesterday afternoon. Celtic’s fluency in the final third meant there were times that Samson was blocking shots in rapid-fire fashion as if being rained on in the training ground.
Motherwell had glimpses of goal sporadically, and will curse Ben Heneghan directing a header wide of goal when it seemed easier to score only minutes after the restart. Mark McGhee’s men also induced a goalmouth scramble in the opening period but, really, on the balance of goal sightings, the 4-0 scoreline spared the Lanarkshire side.
There must be something about inking a new deal with the Scottish champions. Sinclair celebrated doing so in completing a £3.5m move from Aston Villa at the weekend by coming off the bench and netting the winner against Hearts. Last night, it only took Rogic 19 minutes to mark a new chapter in his Celtic career in notable fashion; the attacker having committed his long-term future to the club on Tuesday.
A delightful lofted ball from Callum McGregor picked him out in oceans of space and Rogic did the rest by flicking the ball up and the ramming in into the roof of the net on the turn. He doubled up his tally for the evening with his team’s fifth that followed a Forrest drive being palmed out by the Motherwell keeper to allow him to tap in.
Moussa Dembele made it 2-0 from the penalty spot little after half an hour with the short run, rifled high style that brought him the tie clincher in the last week’s Champions League qualifier against Astana. For those who like their penalty controversies - and my, oh my has Jamie Walker’s dive dominated the debate - there was no protests when Sinclair hit the deck following a push by Richard Tait. The Frenchman claimed a second goal when a spot of bagatelle ended with a strike from him beating Samson courtesy of a wicked deflection.
That was Celtic’s fourth, which came only two minutes after a 61st minute strike that brought greatest acclaim from the home punters. In no small part that was because it was long overdue after Sinclair’s teasing and tormenting across the evening. The 27-year-old showed great poise and balance to cut inside from the left and curl an inch-perfect effort high in at the far post.
With his side cruising, Rodgers could spread the love among his squad. He gave a senior debut to centre-back Jamie McCart, son of Celtic head of youth Chris, and also brought on Anthony Ralston for a first competitive outing at Celtic Park. By the close of proceedings, there were six Celtic academy players on the pitch. If you didn’t know better, you might think a point was being made to Tynecastle manager Robbie Nielson for his Celtic-buy, Hearts-develop comment.
Celtic: Gordon; Janko (Ralston 81), Lustig (McCart 69), O’Connell, Izaguirre; Brown (Henderson 73), McGregor; Forrest, Rogic, Sinclair; Dembele. Subs: Fasan, Ciftci, Armstrong, Christie.
Scorers: Rogic 19,76 Dembele 34 pen, 63, Sinclair 61
Motherwell: Samson; Chalmers, Hammell (Ainsworth 46), McManus, Heneghan, Tait; Clay, Cadden, Lasley; Johnson, McDonald. Subs: Brill, Laing, Lucas, Thomas, Ferguson, Mackin
Referee: Kevin Clancy