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Celtic 3-0 Motherwell: First-half goals ensure hosts top Scottish Premiership


Scott Sinclair scored Celtic's second from the spot

Scott Sinclair scored Celtic’s second from the spot

Celtic returned to the Scottish Premiership summit after a first-half blitz ensured victory over Motherwell.

The win, coupled with Rangers’ draw with Hibernian, means they lead their Old Firm rivals by a point with a game in hand.

Anthony Ralston opened the scoring before Scott Sinclair’s penalty made it two just four minutes later.

Celtic lost striker Odsonne Edouard to injury, but replacement Mikey Johnston slammed in a third before the break.

Brendan Rodgers’ side host Dundee on Saturday, before trips to face Aberdeen and then Rangers before the winter shutdown.

Motherwell remain ninth, nine points behind Hibernian in eighth, but five clear of Hamilton in 10th.

Celtic youngsters mask Edouard blow

After using a somewhat unfamiliar system in defeat by Hibernian on Sunday, Rodgers brought in 20-year-old Ralston to play on the right of a back four.

The impact was clear as, on his first start of the season, Ralston surged up and down the flank causing Motherwell all sorts of problems, not least sliding in the opening goal after Edouard had shrugged off several defenders and crafted an excellent ball through.

It was fantastic forward play from the Frenchman, and the kind Celtic will fear they may be without for the festive fixtures – including against Aberdeen and Rangers – after he limped off clutching a thigh.

By that point, though, Sinclair had already struck a penalty precisely past Mark Gillespie to make it 2-0, after Charles Dunne scythed down James Forrest.

Motherwell were suddenly buried after being largely untroubled by Celtic for nearly half an hour. And to compound matters, Edouard’s replacement – 19 year-old Johnston – dropped a shoulder and shuffled on to his right foot to bamboozle Motherwell centre-back Carl McHugh before lashing in a third.

Johnston’s impact in a comfortable victory may have made Edouard’s absence look insignificant, but with Moussa Dembele sold in the summer and Leigh Griffiths taking an indefinite break from football, Celtic could face real problems in the striking department if the 20-year-old’s injury prognosis is serious.

As it happened, Olivier Ntcham, playing in a more attacking midfield role with Callum McGregor deeper, provided Celtic’s main threat after the break.

The Frenchman first struck a low drive just past a post and, when played through, searched for the far corner with a fizzing shot, but Gillespie did well to deny him.

For Motherwell’s part they rarely threatened, and will be glad to have got through the game conceding just three after briefly collapsing in the 15 minutes before the break.

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Johnston is a huge talent – Rodgers

‘Celtic will want January reinforcements’ – analysis

BBC Scotland’s Martin Dowden at Celtic Park

Celtic are back on top of the Premiership with their 100 percent home record intact. That’s now eight league wins from eight at Celtic Park, and 17 goals in their last four home games.

Their record was never really under threat as a clinical spell before half time saw them wrap up the points early on.

The injury to Edouard is the big concern though. In his place, Johnson certainly made an impact with a stunning third but with big games coming up, there are a lack of striking options.

Celtic will want to end December top of the table before regrouping and reinforcing in the January transfer window.

‘Great to see youngsters do well’ – reaction

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers: “I thought it was an excellent performance, there were some very good moments in the game.

“A lot of our play was very good considering the games the players have been playing. It was great to see the young players coming into the team and doing well.”

Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson: “We’ve got three big games coming up. I made a lot of changes so people would be fresh for Saturday. Anything from tonight would have been a bonus.

“But I’m a little bit disappointed because had we shown the bravery on the ball we did in the second half, we might have got something.”

Live Text

Match ends, Celtic 3, Motherwell 0.

Second Half ends, Celtic 3, Motherwell 0.

Olivier Ntcham (Celtic) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Conor Sammon (Motherwell).

Substitution, Motherwell. Curtis Main replaces Charles Dunne.

Attempt missed. Lewis Morgan (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.

Delay in match Aaron Taylor-Sinclair (Motherwell) because of an injury.

Filip Benkovic (Celtic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Liam Grimshaw (Motherwell).

Foul by Michael Johnston (Celtic).

Tom Aldred (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt missed. Andy Rose (Motherwell) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high.

Lewis Morgan (Celtic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Carl McHugh (Motherwell) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Carl McHugh (Motherwell).

Lewis Morgan (Celtic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Tom Aldred (Motherwell).

Filip Benkovic (Celtic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Alex Rodriguez (Motherwell).

Substitution, Celtic. Lewis Morgan replaces Scott Sinclair.

Attempt missed. Tom Aldred (Motherwell) header from the centre of the box misses to the right following a set piece situation.

Foul by Filip Benkovic (Celtic).

Conor Sammon (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt saved. Olivier Ntcham (Celtic) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom left corner.

Attempt missed. Olivier Ntcham (Celtic) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right.

Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Richard Tait.

Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Liam Grimshaw.

Michael Johnston (Celtic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Carl McHugh (Motherwell).

Attempt missed. Filip Benkovic (Celtic) header from the centre of the box misses to the left following a corner.

Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Charles Dunne.

Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Emilio Izaguirre.

Attempt blocked. Olivier Ntcham (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Scott Brown.

Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Emilio Izaguirre.

Foul by Callum McGregor (Celtic).

Allan Campbell (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

James Forrest (Celtic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Richard Tait (Motherwell).

Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic) wins a free kick on the left wing.