Football broke out yesterday in what has seemed like a World Series of Celtic and Motherwell meetings. A hat-trick from Celtic’s 19-year-old on-loan striker Odsonne Edouard came as merciful relief following two previous games scarred by controversy.
After a week of tantrums and tears over contentious penalties, crunching challenges, coin-throwing, claims, counter-claims and counter-counter-claims, a different dynamic altogether was created by this convincing win over the Fir Park side which was underpinned by the precision finishing of the Paris Saint-Germain forward.
This third-parter for Motherwell seemed all too much for them following their stoic efforts in the Betfred Cup final loss and the midweek league draw in Lanarkshire that Celtic only earned through a late penalty. Instead, a mere third start for Edouard gave way to his three-goal burst that meant the Scottish champions could bring up their 67-game domestic unbeaten run with their biggest home league win of the season. A late double from James Forrest added the gloss and allowed him to hit double-figures in a campaign for the first time.
Brendan Rodgers made a number of changes with an eye on Tuesday’s Champions League visit of Anderlecht. Edouard, who has played third stringer behind the injured Moussa Dembele and the rested Leigh Griffiths, seized the opportunity that provided. He did so by producing the up-front mobility Rodgers sought through the conviction it would cause problems for Motherwell who were later castigated by their manager Stephen Robinson for being “outfought” in a one-sided first period and for the sense that some “turned up expecting nothing”.
Edouard scored twice in the first half hour, sharply clipping in a cross squared to him from the left by Scott Sinclair in the 16th minute, before then slaloming forward to the edge of the area and squeezing a low shot in at right-hand corner of Trevor Carson’s net for the second.
He brought up his hat-trick with Celtic’s fourth in the 85th minute that resulted from an attempted header to his goalkeeper from Richard Tait that Edouard collected and tucked away with aplomb.
That same conviction was demonstrated by Forrest. He cut in from the right with 13 minutes remaining and found the gap that didn’t seem to be there in the far corner. Two minutes from normal time, the winger showed the confidence coursing through him to send the ball into precisely the spot he wanted with the outside of his left foot. Earlier, Motherwell looked like the might make a game of it when Elliott Frear stabbed in a curling Tait cross to reduce the deficit to 2-1. Celtic, though, were a team on a mission – none more so than Edouard who offered a “oui” when asked if he would consider a permanent move to Celtic.
Rodgers said afterwards there was an option to sign the player at the end of his year-long loan from the French spendthrifts, a club to whom £100 million-plus seems the starting price for a forward they would put into their team.
“A real complete performance by a big talent who has been unfortunate not to have had more game time,” is how the Celtic manager described the first occasion that French teenager has really shone in Celtic colours. And Rodgers made a bold claim about the potential for further such opportunities for him.
“He’s really settled in now and is loving being at the club. He’s just had to bide his time and settle into the country, and way of working. For me, it’s about the form of the players. You have to be performing in training and in the games, so he’s took his chance today and been absolutely outstanding.
“Taking him in has kept the other two [Dembele and Griffiths], in the main, fit. Last year one was fit and the other one wasn’t. Bringing him in was always going to put the focus on the other two but he has the ability to start every game, there’s no question of that, that’s why we brought him here. He’s one of the top young players in world football for his age.”