Celtic crush Well to close in on Gers

Celtic crush Well to close in on Gers

( AFP ) - Celtic crushed Motherwell 4-1 at Fir Park on Sunday to claim revenge on last week's 1-0 defeat and maintain their slim hopes of the Scottish Premier League title.

After losing 1-0 at Celtic Park the previous weekend, Gordon Strachan's side were never in danger of another slip up.

Celtic captain Stephen McManus opened the scoring for the Parkhead side and, although he then scored into his own net to level the scores, Scott McDonald and a Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink double secured all three points.

The result took Celtic to within four points of league leaders Rangers, who have two games in hand.

And the victory will have boosted confidence among Strachan's side that they can still catch their city rivals ahead of Wednesday's crunch Old Firm match at Celtic Park.

The Celtic manager, however, did not think his side had played any better than in recent weeks when they lost to Motherwell, Rangers and Aberdeen.

Strachan said: "In terms of actual football that performance would be well down the list in terms of the number of chances we made.

"It was a different type of game today. The commitment was a joy to behold. The football, compared to the previous week's game against Motherwell, was not quite to the same standard but the commitment was excellent.

"Scott McDonald's commitment this season has been absolutely fantastic. Just because he has went four or five games without scoring he's found what it means to be a Celtic player.

"You have to go through that as a Celtic player and the next time it comes round it will be far easier for him to handle.

"Our next three games are at Celtic Park and if we continue to make the same amount of chances, and our finishing is good, then we can score a few goals."

The visitors had taken the lead in the 17th minute.

Gary Caldwell beat Motherwell goalkeeper Graeme Smith to Shunsuke Nakamura's free-kick and when the ball looped into the air McManus rushed in to power the header into the net.

However, Celtic could only keep their lead for seven minutes.

Stephen Hughes slid the ball through to put Ross McCormack through on goal and although Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc looked to have done enough to deflect his shot wide, McManus attempted to make sure and instead succeeded only in putting the ball into his own net.

Celtic were in no mood to drop any more points in their faltering title defence and in the 30th minute they were back in front.

Nakamura's cross was only partially cleared by the home side's defence and former Motherwell striker McDonald clinically volleyed home from 12-yards - the Australian striker's 27th goal of the season.

On the stroke of half-time Celtic opened up a two goal cushion when Vennegoor of Hesselink got on the end of Barry Robson's corner to power an unstoppable header past Smith from six-yards.

And the points were secured in the 57th minute when Vennegoor of Hesselink completed his double.

Lee Naylor's long throw-in eventually fell to the big Dutch striker and from 12-yards he rifled the ball into the top corner.

Motherwell manager Mark McGhee was not too downhearted at the defeat.

He said: "If you get anything against the Old Firm it is a bonus so our win at Celtic Park was a bonus for us.

"Our big games are against Hibs, Aberdeen and Dundee United so we can't worry too much about losing today."

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