Celtic bounced back from their double defeat by Salzburg and Hibs with a solid home victory over Motherwell last night. Three goals in the first half was enough to see off the visitors and there were some notable performances into the bargain.
Scott Brown made his 500th appearance for the Hoops in what could be his final season at the club. He joins an elite batch of players in Celtic’s history having already secured the most European appearances by a Celtic player.
Brendan Rodgers made one change for this match installing Anthony Ralston at right back. It is the young player’s first appearance of the season and also since September last year.
Since then, he has penned a new deal for the club and been out on loan at Dundee United. Last night he was given a chance and he took it with both hands.
He didn’t just show his defensive capabilities. We saw what he had to offer in the attacking sense too.
The first goal came from the defender after he’d been played in by Odsonne Edouard. It was a fine finish under a challenge and with an onrushing goalkeeper.
Prior to that, Ralston had got in a fine cross but there were no takers. The player did not waste his opportunity.
The next goal came from the penalty spot. As James Forrest sped into the box, Charles Dunne chopped him down with a poorly timed challenge.
Scott Sinclair converted the penalty with a well placed effort. Surprisingly, Dunne didnt’ even receive a booking for the offence.
I guess with Bobby Madden you just never know what way he is swinging in a match. He set out his stall by not taking any action on this one.
Sadly, Celtic lost Edouard to injury shortly before the interval and will be assessed in the coming days. With no other recognisable striker currently available, the transfer window cannot come quick enough for Celtic.
However, the French player’s replacement didn’t spurn his opportunity either. Like Ralston, Mikey Johnston stepped in and took his chance.
The young attacker received a short pass from Forrest, side-stepped a wall of Motherwell players and sent a looping effort over the keeper and into the net from the edge of the box. This was a real touch of class from Johnston.
He has had game time this season but recently found himself on the periphery in recent matches. With competition for places fierce, he has thrown his hat into the ring.
This was a game that was decided in the first half. The second produced further efforts from Celtic with no goals but over the entire game Motherwell did not produce a single shot on target.
Celtic now have a relatively straightforward home tie against Dundee on Saturday. The bottom side have managed to pick up four out of a possible twelve points this month including a draw at home to Rangers.
It hasn’t got them off the bottom of the table but they are level on points with St Mirren now. For Celtic, this should be a formality.
The likelihood of Odsonne Edouard making it will depend on the outcome of his injury. Even if he is fit, I doubt he would be risked against Dundee with two huge matches against Aberdeen on Boxing Day and Rangers just before New Year.
We could see the same team assembled this Saturday with Mikey Johnston thrown in again. I’d certainly like to see more of Ralston too as he has lost a year through injury and getting back to his best.
There is high expectations of a flurry in the transfer market by Celtic. It is also encouraging to see more talent looking hungry and taking their chances.