Celtic extended their winning run since the winter break to six games with a comfortable 4-0 Scottish Premiership win at Motherwell.
Odsonne Edouard scored in each half, with Leigh Griffiths and Callum McGregor also netting after the break, as Celtic recorded an 11th consecutive domestic away victory by sweeping aside the league’s third-placed side.
The result ensures Neil Lennon’s men stay seven points ahead of Rangers, who scored late to beat Hibernian, though the Ibrox side have a game in hand.
Despite their heavy defeat, Motherwell remain three points ahead of Aberdeen in third.
Second half surge too much for Motherwell
Celtic had looked like a well-oiled machine after their winter break, but Motherwell would make this a real contest in the first half.
Initially the champions appeared to be ready for more rampage, with their menacing 3-5-2 formation causing problems with Edouard and Griffiths up front.
But Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson had insisted his side would take the game to Celtic, and they did. Jermaine Hylton had the first real chance, but the winger snatched at it and the ball flew wide.
Edouard would make the first-half difference. Credit to Griffiths for stealing the ball from Liam Donnelly before feeding McGregor, who combined with Edouard on the edge of the box. The French striker saw his initial shot blocked but it bounced fortuitously back into his path and he fired low past Mark Gillespie to make it 1-0.
In an open first half, Motherwell responded immediately as Alan Campbell fired wide and winger Rolando Aarons – making his debut on loan from Newcastle – hit the post from a Liam Polworth cross. The lively Aarons would come close again with an angled drive from the edge of the box which Forster did well to divert over the bar.
So Motherwell with the better of the first-half chances, but Celtic in front and early in the second half it looked like it was game over.
McGregor did well to hit the bye-line before cutting back for Griffiths right between the sticks five yards from goal. The Scotland international could not miss – Celtic 2-0 in front.
The attacks suddenly became incessant. First Edouard set up Griffiths for a header which came back off the bar. Then Edouard played it into the path of Olivier Ntcham eight yards out, but the midfielder blazed over when he really should have scored.
Scott Brown fired in an effort which ricocheted towards goal, eventually into the gloves of Gillespie. Seconds later the ball was heading back toward the goalkeeper, who saved from McGregor. Seconds after that, he had to save again at the feet of Edouard. It was relentless.
Motherwell resisted until the final quarter hour when they were ripped apart by a goal of real quality from Celtic. James Forrest provided the assist for McGregor, who took a touch which set the ball up perfectly for him to hit a volley from 18 yards into the net.
The win would become even more emphatic as Edouard fired in a free kick from 20 yards to make it 4-0.
A tough scoreline on Motherwell who gave plenty to this match, but Celtic were on another level to end up with.
Man of the match – Odsonne Edouard
So many contenders for Celtic but Edouard once again takes the honour.
His quality shone through as the champions moved up through the gears. At times he was unplayable, setting up countless chances as well as scoring two himself.
‘We were magnificent’ – reaction
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson:“We had plenty of the match in the first half. To create that many chances against Celtic, you have to take them.
“If you don’t take your chances then, eventually, they’ll wear you down. And they did – and won comfortably in the end.”
Celtic manager Neil Lennon:“I enjoyed the second half a lot more than the first half. Motherwell’s set up caused a few problems but we sorted that out at half-time and second half we were magnificent.”