The Met Office issued a weather warning for the Glasgow and Motherwell areas today with threats of heavy rain, thunder and lightning. In truth, the only storm fans were caught up in during the high noon kick-off was the pulsating 90 minutes of action served up by Motherwell and Celtic.
The home side came out the traps early and Celtic seemed a little static at times, particularly at the back where Neil Lennon was forced into another reshuffle of his defensive options. Bolingoli and Jullien looked nervous playing against the high press and quick closing-down from our hosts. The punishment came after 12 minutes when they failed to clear the ball from a long diagonal pass into the left-back area where a crisp shot from Donnelly had Bain beaten at his near post. As ever, our on-the-field leader and captain, Scott Brown, was on hand to provide a calming influence on his team-mates.
If Celtic were a little disjointed on the left, we were certainly more comfortable and productive on the right hand side where James Forrest and Kristoffer Ajer combined to great effect. The big Norwegian found acres of space in midfield and worked a one-two with Forrest before calmly sliding the ball past the keeper to equalise almost immediately. Ajer showed he has so much more to offer other than commanding the role at centre-back where he has excelled since returning from Kilmarnock on loan.
The first-half continued to follow the early pattern with the hosts happy to try to push Celtic back and create mistakes from a newly assembled back four and both teams had chances with shots flashing across goal. The link-up play from middle to front was not as fluid as we witnessed in the 7-0 victory over St Johnstone last week, however, when the stalemate was broken just before half-time it was no surprise when Leigh Griffiths lashed the free-kick, which he had just won, into the bottom corner beyond the outstretched arms of the keeper. Griffiths duly celebrated by running to the opposite end of the pitch to join in the jubilation in front of the Celtic fans in the south stand.
The second half produced a more convincing display from Celtic in just about every position, but special praise must be spared for Kristoffer Ajer, who simply gets better every time you watch him. Strong and comfortable under pressure in defence, and confident pushing his side forward into attack, the young Norwegian is a real pleasure to watch.
Three more goals in the second-half from Forrest, Edouard and Christie put the shine on an excellent second 45 minutes from Celtic. It was a little disappointing to lose a late goal from a corner kick as time was running out. This will definitely give Neil Lennon and John Kennedy plenty to work on at training before the crunch midweek European qualifier.
It’s early days in the season, and I don’t like to get carried away, however two league matches in and Celtic have scored 12 goals from players all over the pitch. The staleness that had crept into our performances towards the end of last season has made way for a fresh focus on attack and the desire to change our build-up play to keep the opposition guessing. There is still plenty of work to be done in getting a settled back four, but the thunder Lennon spoke of during his first stint as manager is beginning to rumble a little louder under the second coming.
ACSOM’s Man of the Match: