Elyounoussi’s hat-trick gets Celtic back on track at Motherwell

Neil Lennon’s side responded to thumping at the hands of Sparta Prague on Thursday

Celtic’s Mohamed Elyounoussi with manager Neil Lennon after the Scottish Premiership win over Motherwell at Fir Park, Motherwell. Photo: Steve Welsh/PA Wire

Celtic’s Mohamed Elyounoussi with manager Neil Lennon after the Scottish Premiership win over Motherwell at Fir Park, Motherwell. Photo: Steve Welsh/PA Wire

 

Motherwell 1 Celtic 4

Mohamed Elyounoussi responded to the distress signals coming out of Celtic Park this week with a hat-trick in a 4-1 Premiership win over Motherwell at Fir Park.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon had found himself under pressure and his players heavily criticised after the painful 4-1 Europa League defeat by Sparta Prague at Parkhead on Thursday night left them with one win in the last six matches in all competitions.

However, Hoops attacker Elyounoussi, who grabbed headlines when he was spotted on his phone after being substituted against the Czech side, put Celtic in control with a first-half double.

Well defender Declan Gallagher reduced the deficit in the 72nd minute with a fine header but Elyounoussi sealed his hat-trick three minutes later with an equally-impressive header before late second-half substitute Olivier Ntcham stroked in a fourth near the end.

Lennon had promised to make changes after the chastening Sparta defeat and under-fire defender Shane Duffy — the summer recruit from Brighton on loan — was replaced by fit-again Kristoffer Ajer, while Albian Ajeti took over from French striker Odsonne Edouard who also dropped to the bench.

On the back of two consecutive wins, Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson kept the same starting XI.

There was a period of silence before kick-off to mark Remembrance Sunday and both squads and management took the knee to show support for the fight against racism.

Motherwell had only themselves to blame for Celtic’s eighth-minute opener.

Midfielder Liam Polworth’s attempted back pass to defender Gallagher from 25 yards was intercepted by Ajeti, who rattled the far post with a powerful drive with Elyounoussi able to tap in from three yards for his fifth goal in six games.

The hosts were not allowed to build a head of steam but there was a penalty claim when Callum Lang tumbled to the ground inside the box under pressure from Hoops skipper Scott Brown.

Referee Andrew Dallas was unmoved, and then Ajer blocked a goal-bound shot from Tony Watt for a corner which came to nothing.

Elyounoussi grabbed himself a second goal in the 27th minute after silky midfielder Tom Rogic glided to the byeline before cutting the ball back to leave the Norway international a simple but well-executed finish.

Motherwell’s task had doubled in difficulty but they soon had a chance when Watt robbed Parkhead full-back Jeremie Frimpong down the left and drove into the box — but his delivery across the six-yard box found no takers.

Frimpong and Ryan Christie both came close with shots from distance as Celtic continued to threaten.

The home side started the second-half with purpose and within minutes Celtic left-back Diego Laxalt cleared Gallagher’s header from a Polworth corner off the line with Ajer completing the clearance.

Another timely intervention by Laxalt just before the hour mark prevented Lang getting a shot away just a couple of yards from goal.

Motherwell’s goal came after Edouard and Hatem Elhamed had replaced Ajeti and Frimpong for Celtic with Well’s Robbie Crawford and Chris Long on for Devante Cole and Barry McGuire.

When Polworth sent in a searching free-kick, Gallagher outjumped Nir Bitton at the back post to head past goalkeeper Scott Bain.

But any prospects of a comeback were soon ended when Elyounoussi arrived late to head in a terrific cross from Elhamed.

Midfielder Ntcham had just come off the bench to replace Rogic when fellow Frenchman Edouard set him up in the 86th minute to stroke the ball home from 14 yards.

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