Scott McDonald returned to haunt Motherwell as he found the net for the seventh time in six games against his old club since leaving them. McDonald's second-half goal built upon a sublime strike from Paul Hartley to secure an eighth successive victory. Well played the final half-hour with 10 men after David Clarkson was dismissed but Celtic showed remarkable powers of recovery after their draining Champions' League meeting with Manchester United three days earlier.
Motherwell tried to take advantage of any Celtic fatigue early on with Chris Porter's looping header being cleared off the line by the vigilant Shaun Maloney before goalkeeper Mark Brown, replacing the injured Artur Boruc, produced a fine save to deny John Sutton.
It took the hosts 20 minutes to conjure a threat, with McDonald spinning to thrash a shot that Graeme Smith superbly pushed wide. The Motherwell goalkeeper eclipsed that save 10 minutes later to paw McDonald's header away. The champions recognised they had to step up their tempo and Cillian Sheridan came close when he gathered a pass from McDonald and hit a raking effort that was turned wide of the post by the agile Smith.
McDonald did get the ball in the net but his firm 44th-minute header was ruled out because he had pushed Paul Quinn.
However, with the next attack, Celtic struck. Sheridan created the opening by bursting into the box and his attempt to find McDonald saw the ball break back to him. The Irish teenager's second cross was headed out by Mark Reynolds and Hartley showed peerless technique to control the ball with his chest and thrash a low 20-yard volley past Smith
The visitors' task became immense when Clarkson was sent off for shoving a hand in the face of his pursuer, Celtic substitute Paul Caddis. McDonald was guilty of greed when he spoiled the work of Andreas Hinkel, who had embarked on a great solo run, only for McDonald to steal the ball off him in the box and shoot too high.
But the Australian striker atoned for that in the 71st minute when he seized on the ball, cut in from the right and drilled a low right-foot finish beyond Smith from 20 yards.Reuse content