Motherwell 0-4 Celtic: Edouard at the double as McGregor stars in rout
There are certain bankable aspects of this re-upholstered Celtic team of 2020, and they were to the fore as Neil Lennon’s men came through another significant test in their quest to claim a ninth straight title, with fly colours all told. And a seven-point Premiership lead safelyt intact.
The Celtic of this year don’t just beat whatever is in front of them - they beat them by bagging at least three goals, and by being able to rely upon the predatory instincts of strike pair Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths.
The Frenchman’s double, and another from the rejuvenated 29-year-old, ensured that between them the pair have now plundered 11 of the 19 goals that Celtic have netted in six straight wins since the winter shutdown they entered on a low following the Old Firm defeat.
With that reverse their only blemish across their past 16 league games, Lennon’s men are gnashing hard on the bit between their teeth.
For since the Rangers defeat, the heights scaled have so often been about the sublime talents of Edouard. The 22-year-old took his tally for the season to 24, with Griffiths his wingman in making it four goals from six appearances this year.
There was litttle surprise that Lennon chose to retain his recently favoured 3-5-2 formation.
The as-you-were approach meant a fifth game in six that Edouard and Griffiths were deployed as the attacking duo.
Edouard struck for his first after only nine minutes, the home side allowing the forward and Callum McGregor to sprint forward in tandem as if they were jogging round the park.
The Scotland midfielder fed his team-mate in front of goal, and sloppy defending meant the Frenchman was able to tuck away the follow-up after his initial effort was blocked. His second, to make it 4-0 with 10 minutes of normal time remaining, was another free-kick in the style of his effort in the 4-1 win over Hamilton at the weekend.
Relatively close in once more, he seemed to defy the laws of physics in contriving to achieve such a parabolic arc to completely dazzle 'Well keeper Mark Gillespie.
With the scoreline at 1-0, Celtic’s goal led a charmed life - never more so than when Fraser Forster instinctively flicked away a drive from impressive debutant Rolando Aarons just before the interval.
Griffiths had his say after 52 minutes, despite having produced one of his more untidy displays of late. A sloppy pass by Oliver Ntcham that resulted in a clearance from Christopher Jullien was picked up by McGregor. He burst down the left wing and when he squared the ball Griffiths, after seeming to get it caught in his feet, dug it out and finished in the corner.
Motherwell were a beaten team then. Yet, for all that the scoreline might suggest otherwise, they had seriously tested Celtic’s back three - which had Jozo Simunovic in place of youngster Stephen Welsh from the weekend win at Hamilton - as no other opponent has been able to do in this past month.
Stephen Robinson’s men were unrecognisable from the team that served up such a soulless display in losing at Livingston at the weekend. With Celtic in town, for the opening period at least, the Fir Park men put on the game-face that made the confrontation third versus first.
The home side had Celtic under pressure from the off in adopting the high risk strategy of pushing their wide men right up the pitch, in the attempt to expoit spaces in behind Celtic’s wing-back James Forrest and Greg Taylor. They did so but the large wide open spaces their approach created both was the making of them and the breaking of them.
It is admirable to see a Scottish team go toe-to-toe with Celtic, but the outcome has an air of inevitability about it because Lennon’s side will wear opponents down by dint of their attacking intensity.
They had a hatful of chances to add to the three second half goals but will lose little sleep over that.
One man who will slumber soundly is McGregor, for ensuring that the goalscoring wasn’t just the Edouard-Griffiths show.
The Scotland midfielder has returned from the break looking entirely refreshed and his thirst for net-bulging moments has certainly been replenished.
His third goal of the year - and ninth of the season - was a corker, bringing under control a ball hoisted in from the right with one touch, before smearing a volley into the top corner.