Anthony Stokes’s goal makes it seven in a row for Celtic

Champions dominate but fail to take full advantage of opportunities at Motherwell

Celtic’s Anthony Stokes celebrates scoring against Motherwell during the Scottish Premiership match at Fir Park. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

Celtic’s Anthony Stokes celebrates scoring against Motherwell during the Scottish Premiership match at Fir Park. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

 

Motherwell 0 Celtic 1

Republic of Ireland striker Anthony Stokes grabbed the only goal of the game as Celtic notched their seventh Scottish Premiership win in a row against 10-man Motherwell.

The champions dominated throughout the match, but were left largely frustrated by a mixture of poor finishing and great goalkeeping.

In the end, Stokes’s early strike proved to be the difference against a Well side who had Simon Ramsden sent off midway through the second half.

Celtic should have been ahead with just two minutes on the clock when Scott Brown sent John Guidetti through on goal.

The prolific forward looked certain to add to his 11 goals so far, but he somehow managed to drag his shot inches wide of the post from 15 yards.

But it was merely a brief reprieve for Motherwell, who found themselves trailing after five minutes.

A mix-up between Fraser Kerr and Ramsden allowed Stefan Johansen to pounce on the ball and round goalkeeper Dan Twardzik.

Johansen’s cut-back found Stokes in space and he was able to dispatch a low shot between two defenders and into the net.

Celtic could have doubled their lead when Brown dummied Nir Bitton’s pass to James Forrest and his shot was just wide of target.

It was mostly one-way traffic, but Iain Vigurs did have a go with a shot from distance that did little to trouble Craig Gordon in the Celtic goal.

The champions still looked more dangerous in front of goal and Twardzik did well to smother a point-blank effort from Johansen inside the box.

Guidetti’s acrobatic over-head kick into the net was then flagged offside, although television replays suggested he was onside.

The home side were forced to make a change after half-an-hour when Kerr hobbled off with what appeared to be a hamstring problem and was replaced by David Ferguson.

Motherwell could have hit back shortly before the break when Henrik Ojamaa tried his luck with a shot that came off Efe Ambrose.

With the defender down injured in the box, play went on, much to the frustration of the visiting support, and the attack only ended when Vigurs’s drive was held by Gordon.

With a single goal separating the sides at half-time, Celtic knew there was still a real possibility of their hosts forcing their way back into the game.

And they set about piling on the pressure as soon as the second half was under way, with Twardzik called into action to block a well-struck shot from Forrest.

Even so, Motherwell were showing signs that they should not be written off.

But hopes of a comeback were dealt a blow when Ramsden was sent off for a challenge on Forrest just outside the area after 66 minutes.

Guidetti sent the resulting free-kick over the crossbar before being denied again by a brilliant save from Twardzik.

The goalkeeper came to the rescue again when he blocked Emilio Izaguirre’s close-range shot at the near post before the full back hooked the rebound over.

Guidetti passed up another great chance when he appeared to connect awkwardly in front of goal and Forrest was unable to convert thanks to another fantastic save from Twardzik.

For all Celtic’s pressure, Motherwell could have snatched a point late on when Lionel Ainsworth picked out fellow substitute Lee Erwin, who nodded agonisingly wide of the gaping net before being booked at the death for diving.

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