Five-star show as Celtic lay down marker for rivals

CELTIC'S goal-den Bhoy, Kris Commons - hat-trick hero against Hearts - was on target again with a double to set his team on their way to sweeping aside Motherwell and extending their Premiership lead .

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Kris Commons was in among the goals again with a double at Fir Park
Kris Commons was in among the goals again with a double at Fir Park

Efe Ambrose, who only joined up with the squad a few hours earlier after being present as his wife gave birth to a daughter, was also on the mark to crown a perfect day for the Nigerian.

With Anthony Stokes ending his two-month wait for a goal, and sub Bahrudin Atajic getting in on the scoring act, it was celebrations all round the Hoops camp.

The 5-0 victory takes Celtic eight clear of the chasing pack, and sets them up perfectly for Wednesday's closing Champions League tie against Barcelona in the Nou Camp.

Progress in that competition is already beyond them, but their march towards retaining their champions crown continues unabated.

Now, with 14 games unbeaten in the league - they have not lost since April - the cry is: Catch us if you can.

On this form, that is a big ask as they are looking solid at the back and deadly up front.

Neil Lennon predicted his side would hit their stride at this point of the season, as they did last year, and how right he was.

Mikael's Lustig's shot inside the opening 40 seconds, parried by Gunnar Nielsen, had set the tone for the snowy evening.

Fortunately by then, the smoke bombs ignited in the stand behind Fraser Forster which accommodated Celtic fans, had cleared, even if, evidently, the thought processes of those who brought them along to the ground had not.

Enough fireworks were provided by the Celtic players, obviously eager to pick up where the left off in the goal-fest at Tynecastle.

Stokes was willing to shoot on sight, and saw a decent free kick pawed away before Emilio Izaguirre set up Lustig with another chance, his inch- perfect cross headed just over by the Swede.

Teemu Pukki was given another chance to rediscover the scoring touch which has deserted him since his first couple of games for the club, and should have found the net on 64 minutes, but was too slow to pull the trigger when set up by Lustig.

To add insult to injury, Pukki was booked for diving three minutes later, despite TV showing Adam Cummins caught his foot in the area.

The mis-firing Finn had been left in no doubt no one was going to stand aside and let him find his form, Shaun Hutchinson going into the ref's book after just 16 minutes for an over-robust welcome-to-Well tackle.

By then, Stuart McCall had been forced into a change, with Fraser Kerr limping off to be replaced by Cummins.

There appeared to be a real urgency on Celtic's part to get their noses in front - they thought they had a good shout for a penalty in the first half when a Scott Brown cross struck the arm of Stevie Hammell - perhaps mindful of the slim-pickings they had at Fir Park last season, losing two out of their three games there.

Or perhaps they just wanted to keep the chill out of their bones as it could have been referred to Fridge-day night football rather than Friday night football.

Whatever the reason, it had Motherwell - still reeling from their shock cup exit at the hands of Albion Rovers - on the back foot for the opening third of the game, during which Forster's only alarm was caused by the bangers being ignited behind him.

In fact, when Celtic finally took the lead, a minute before the break, the big keeper found himself completely engulfed in green smoke, from a projectile which landed in his six-yard box.

The cue for this pyrotechnic was Commons' back-heeling a Stokes shot, which was going wide, past the helpless Nielsen.

It was clever play by the attacking midfielder, but his initial challenge on Lasley to start the move incensed the home side who believed a foul should have been awarded.

Their fury had not subsided by the time half-time was called, and Lasley had to be led away from ref Steven McLean by McCall, who then spent some of the interval in the match officials' room. McCall had every reason to be angry again when, on 54 minutes, Charlie Mulgrew's driven corner from the left was met by the climbing Ambrose, and the Nigerian needed no second invitation to head home.

Worse was to follow for the Well boss, however, as Commons made it 3-0 with 15 minutes remaining, tapping in his 12th goal of the campaign after Nielsen could only push into his path an Izaguirre curling shot.

Stokes was determined not to be left out of the fun, and two minutes later broke his eight-game drought by ramming home a low cross from Pukki.

All that was left was for sub Atajic to lob Nielsen with a minute to go, and Motherwell's Friday Fright Night was finally over.

MOTHERWELL: Nielsen; Hutchinson, McManus, Kerr (Cummins 9); Ramsden, Lasley, Carswell, Vigurs, Hammell; Moore, Sutton. Subs not used: Stewart, McFadden, Lawson, Murray, Anier, Ainsworth.

CELTIC: Forster; Ambrose, van Dijk; Mulgrew; Lustig, Brown (Hnederson 84), Ledley; Izaguirre; Commons (Boerrigter 79); Stokes, Pukki (Atajic 79). Subs not used: Zaluska, Balde, Johnston, Fisher.



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