Celtic maintained their seven-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership with a hard-fought win over Motherwell at Fir Park.
Ange Postecoglou’s side won 4-0 in the League Cup in Lanarkshire in October, but did not feel comfortable in this latest encounter.
Kyogo Furuhashi tapped in the opener in the 15th minute, while Jota’s wonder goal was disallowed for offside in the run-up.
The game appeared to be over when substitute Daizen Maeda fired in six minutes to play, but moments later Ross Tierney’s goal gave home fans hope for a late comeback.
Motherwell remain ninth after failing to inflict their first midweek league defeat since May 2016 on Celtic.
Celtic lead to victory to maintain lead
Motherwell didn’t open until he conceded a soft goal in the 15th minute. Callum Slattery initially came back well and drove out Matt O’Riley, but then played on the ball and the Celtic midfielder won the ball back with a sliding challenge. O’Riley drilled a low cross that knocked Furuhashi home from the six-yard box.
The home side was soon dealt another blow when centre-back Bevis Mugabi came down injured 21 minutes after his first start in three months. Sondre Solholm replaced him.
Celtic dominated possession in the first half, but rarely fell behind. Jota fired close range and saw an effort by Liam Kelly spill out before the goalkeeper gathered, and O’Donnell produced an excellent slide tackle to turn down Reo Hatate after Liel Abada passed him through.
There was a glimpse of goal for Slattery when Greg Taylor accidentally passed him just inside the Motherwell half. The midfielder saw Hart off his line and made a spectacular attempt, but went wide.
Van Veen had what appeared to be a dead leg from a challenge from Cameron Carter-Vickers in the beginning and he was replaced by Connor Shields at half time. The hosts then lost Stuart McKinstry to injury, with Josh Morris replacing him.
O’Donnell caught a try from Hart before Jota saw a goal disallowed for offside after Furuhashi played the ball over the top.
Motherwell boss Steven Hammell made all five changes by the hour when he brought in forwards Louis Moult and Ross Tierney, and they were fed up with the game but didn’t make the most of several set-pieces.
Celtic substitute Giorgos Giakoumakis failed to convert from eight yards after Jota took advantage of O’Donnell’s slip to set him up with a cross and the home side kept pushing for the equaliser.
The moult came so close when his header from Matt Penney’s cross bounced over the crossbar and O’Donnell sent a shot wide of the post.
Morris may have been lucky enough to escape with a yellow card from referee Willie Collum for a wild challenge on Carl Starfelt.
Celtic doubled their lead when Penney’s throw-in went straight to former Motherwell midfielder David Turnbull. The substitute played a perfect ball over the top and Maeda drilled a try under Kelly.
The home side claimed a foul had been committed when Penney took the throw, but Collum was not called to his monitor by video assistant referee David Dickinson.
Tierney pulled one back two minutes later when he ran to Slattery’s loft free kick and ran home from 12 yards, but Celtic saw the win.
Postecoglou: ‘It was hard to swallow’
Ange Postecoglou admitted the team was far from their best at Fir Park:
“It was a bit of a grind. Thanks to Motherwell, they worked really hard to disrupt our game and we just never got into a real rhythm.
“It wasn’t our best performance by far, but we got the job done.
“We found a way to win the game and that’s nice, we just didn’t control the game enough.”
Hammell: Should Maeda’s goal have stood?
Motherwell manager Steven Hammell was unhappy with some of the decisions as his injuries mounted:
“We’ve tried to take a quick throw and it’s stopped by the Celtic player before he even gets on the pitch. I think that’s a restart, another throw-in.
“They score on that and that is a huge advantage, so we would have liked to have looked at that.
“We’ve put a lot into this period, it’s been a really tough period and we’re asking the same players to go again and we’ve had three or four injuries.
“It’s been a frustrating time.
“It looks serious for Bevis (Mugabi), he’s gone with a knee brace on.”
Celtic host Ross County in their last game before the World Cup on Saturday.
Motherwell its way to St. John’s Stone on the same day. Both games start at 3 p.m.