Randolph's heroics in vain as Celtic take over top spot
Motherwell 0 Celtic 2
On a day when goals rained in throughout the Scottish Premier League, the surprise was that Celtic's visit to Fir Park yielded fewest.
A Gary Hooper strike followed by an own goal by Adam Cummins gave the reigning champions victory, but they should have had many more -- Scott Brown had a penalty saved by the excellent Darren Randolph -- after Cummins was sent off for a foul on Kris Commons.
Motherwell were swiftly on the back foot when James Forrest, operating on the right in the early stages, fed a ball through the channel for Hooper to chase and the forward was thwarted only by Randolph's outstretched leg.
The Ireland 'keeper again came to his team's rescue in Celtic's next thrust, this time using his right foot to keep a Brown shot at bay.
It was only a matter of how long it would take for the dam to burst and Hooper finally fired Celtic ahead on 32 minutes.
Celtic doubled their advantage within two minutes as Hooper spooked Cummins into an over-anxious interception and the Motherwell defender turned the ball into his own net.
Cummins' afternoon went from bad to worse after the break when he allowed Commons to get goalside of him and resorted to hauling the forward back, conceding a penalty and incurring a red card.
Brown stepped up to take the spot-kick but Randolph was equal to his effort and the ball was scrambled clear on the rebound.
With Motherwell reduced in numbers and stretched endlessly by Celtic's pace on the flanks, the home side should have been cut to shreds.
However, a combination of poor finishing and inspirational saves by Randolph kept the score at 2-0.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon was pleased by the performance ahead of tomorrow's Champions League clash against Spartak Moscow.
"We have gone top of the league and that is a good marker for us psychologically. We are starting to hit a bit of form, which is great," he said.
"The new lads are starting to settle in and we have players back from injury."
Elsewhere, Pat Fenlon's Hibernian missed a golden chance to go top when they lost 2-1 at Aberdeen, where Eoin Doyle was once again on the mark.
A glut of goals characterised the afternoon, nowhere more so than in Paisley where St Mirren edged an extraordinary contest with Ross County 5-4.
Richie Foran scored twice as Inverness Caledonian Thistle went on the rampage to secure a 4-0 victory over Dundee United. (© Daily Telegraph, London)