It seems preposterous to describe anything on this phenomenal run that Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic are on as routine. Yet, if there was a mill in Glasgow’s east end yesterday this encounter had the run of it, the home side knocking off their 25th straight domestic win without breaking sweat.
Indeed, one of the more interesting aspects was the rarest of sightings of former Celtic manager Wim Jansen, the man who stopped Rangers completing a run of ten titles 19 years ago.
Now, the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction the only question that is ever posed is not about titles, which seem within Celtic’s grasp for the foreseeable future, but whether they can be stopped from winning at any future point across this domestic season.
Motherwell did not disgrace themselves, having been guilty of that in suffering a 7-2 bleaching at Pittodrie in midweek. There was never going to be any other outcome than a 20th consecutive league victory for Celtic, though, as they chase down the British top-flight record for such a sequence of 25 games set by the club under Martin O’Neill in 2003-4.
Rodgers blamed the rutted Celtic Park surface for the lack of fluency that required a penalty for his side to open the scoring against visitors who concentrated on containment. An understandable focus after both their midweek travails and the loss of Steven Hammell in the warm-up and Stephen McManus only six minutes in. And it was the latter’s replacement, Zak Jules, who bundled Moussa Dembele to the ground in the 34th minute. The Frenchman stepped up and swept the spot-kick beyond Craig Samson for his 27th goal of the season.
In an unhappy double, it was Hammell’s understudy, Joe Chalmers, who James Forrest bamboozled down the right flank to swirl his way into the box and tuck a low effort into the far corner of the net shortly before the interval.
Celtic had opportunities to add to the scoreline in the second period but Motherwell remained resolute, with on-loan Reading centre-back Jules even succeeding in marauding deep into opposition territory in a tame second period.
McGhee, who is awaiting word over what action the SFA will take over his banishment to the Pittodrie stands in midweek, took positives from not enduring a second lopsided scoreline inside the week.
The prospect of Celtic going unbeaten domestically throughout the entire season remains very real, with yesterday their 30th win in 31 games unbeaten on the home front. The Motherwell manager considers there is only one possible impediment to such an outcome that he believes could well happen.
“If Aberdeen can play as well as they did against us the other night that will be a helluva game at Pittodrie because one thing that was possibly not said enough the other night was how good they were,” said McGhee, with Celtic having 13 league games to negotiate, and potentially three Scottish Cup ties for the unblemished record.
“There was a lot of other stuff went on but that detracted from their performance. I thought they were brilliant, that is as good as I have seen them in a long time. If they play as well as that then who knows.”
In respect of the goals conceded, McGhee forgave Jules – “he’s a boy from Reading reserves who has not played first-team football anywhere near this level” – and Chalmers – “there is not a full-back in Scotland who would have lived with Forrest at the moment of his goal” – while Rodgers believes his team continue to make the best of a bad surface.
Forrest was reluctant to make too much of that issue, with Celtic having won seven home games on the spin without conceding a goal, and only last week putting six past Inverness in the Scottish Cup.
“The gaffer has said not to make excuses but I think the boys have coped well with the pitch,” the winger said. “In the last couple of games at home we’ve scored some good goals and kept some clean sheets as well. I think everyone to a certain extent has been affected by it but once the game is going you don’t think about it. You just get on with it and play the conditions.”