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  • Stokes strikes for Celts to make it seven wins on the spin

    Stokes strikes for Celts to make it seven wins on the spin

    By: Mark Henderson on 06 Dec, 2014 15:05

  • Scottish Premiership
    Fir Park, Motherwell
    Saturday, December 6, 2014

    MOTHERWELL...0

    CELTIC...1
    (Stokes 6)

    ANTHONY Stokes’ early goal proved enough for Celtic to make it seven league wins on the spin after a dominant display against Motherwell at Fir Park.

    The Irishman found the net in the sixth minute after Stefan Johansen had capitalised on slack defensive pass from Fraser Kerr.

    And the Hoops should have had added to their tally and made it  a more emphatic margin of victory, but a mixture of wasteful finishing and some heroic goalkeeping from Dan Twardzik kept the home side - who were reduced to 10 men when Simon Ramsden saw red for a late challenge on James Forrest - in the game.  

    Forrest and Nir Bitton were restored to the Celtic starting XI as Ronny Deila made two changes to the team that defeated Partick Thistle 1-0 on Wednesday night.

    Charlie Mulgrew and Aleksandar Tonev dropped out, with the latter being named among the substitutes.

    It only took the visitors three minutes to carve the Steelmen open as they made a blistering start to the match.

    Scott Brown drove through the middle and picked out John Guidetti with a precise pass. An exquisite first-touch from the striker put him in the clear but he couldn’t find the finish to match it, sliding the ball inches wide of the post.

    Undeterred, Celtic opened the scoring three minutes later. Stefan Johansen seized upon Fraser Kerr’s wayward pass, rounded Twardzik and calmly picked out Stokes, who swept the ball home.  

    Motherwell simply had no answer to the Hoops’ quick passing, clever movement and relentless pressing in the opening stages.

    And a delightful interchange of passing cut them open again as Brown dummied Bitton’s pass for Forrest, who bore down on goal but failed to hit the target.

    The Steelmen finally emerged from the onslaught in the 14th minute as Iain Virgurs blasted over with an ambitious effort from distance, but normal service quickly resumed.

    Another slick move involving Johansen, Bitton and Guidetti tore apart the home side’s defence and presented Johansen with a sight of goal, but Twardzik denied the Norwegian with a smart save.

    Johansen then turned provider, picking out Guidetti in the box. His angled drive was blocked by Simon Ramsden at the expense of a corner. Following the resultant set-piece, Stokes flashed a dangerous low ball across goal but there were no takers.

    Guidetti did have the ball in the net with an acrobatic effort after Johansen had again found him in the box but the offside flag cut short his celebrations.

    Stokes was proving a thorn in the Motherwell rearguard from his left-wing berth, hitting the byline on several occasions and taking up promising positions, one of which saw him head narrowly wide from Brown’s cross.   

    Celtic also had a number of penalty claims for hand-ball waved away. But for all their dominance, the slender lead offered Kenny Black’s side a glimmer of hope.

    And just before the break, Vigurs called Craig Gordon into action with a low effort. It was a comfortable save for the keeper but the Hoops were incensed that play was allowed to continue while Efe Ambrose lay prone in the box. Thankfully, the defender was able to continue after treatment.

    Twardzik made a comfortable stop from Bitton and Henrik Ojamma fired wide for the hosts either side of half-time, but while Motherwell improved in the second half, they didn’t manage to wrestle control back from the Bhoys.

    Forrest, a livewire on the right, darted inside and tested Twardzik with a low shot, Stokes saw a shot blocked by Josh Law, and from the resultant corner, Guidetti headed over.  

    The Steelmen’s task was made steeper just before the midway point of the half when Ramsden was given his marching orders for lunging in on Forrest as the winger burst into the box. Guidetti sent the subsequent set-piece over.

    It was proving to be a frustrating afternoon for the 22-year-old as he saw another effort saved by Twardzik, with Forrest displaying his discontent at not receiving a pass in the middle.

    Izaguirre was the next player to be thwarted by Twardzik as the Honduran took Johansen’s pass in his stride but couldn’t find a way beyond the Czech shot-stopper, and he could do nothing as the rebound cannoned off him and flew over.

    With 20 minutes remaining, Aleksandar Tonev, on as a second-half substitute, crossed for Guidetti from the left, but the Hoops hit-man could only divert it wide.

    Forrest finally looked to have sealed the victory as he met Johansen’s delivery in the six-yard box but Twardzik’s reacted superbly to turn the ball over.

    And they could have been punished for their profligacy as Lee Erwin headed wide when unmarked in the box in the closing stages.

    But Celtic held out to seal a deserved victory and cement their position at the Scottish Premiership summit ahead of their return to European action on Thursday against Dinamo Zagreb.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Matthews, Ambrose, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton; Forrest (Scepovic 81) Johansen, Stokes (Tonev 64); Guidetti (Commons 88).
    Not Used: Zaluska, Wakaso, Fisher, McGregor

    MOTHERWELL (5-3-2) Twardzik; Law, Ker (Ferguson 30), Ramsden, McManus, Francis-Angol; Lasley, Carswell, Vigurs (Ainsworth 79); Ojamaa, Sutton (Erwin 79).
    Not Used: Stewart, Thomas, Neill, Cadden,

    Website Man of the Match: Scott Brown

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