Match ends, Motherwell 0, Celtic 1.
Motherwell 0-1 Celtic
- Celtic strengthen position at top
- Motherwell remain two points off bottom
- Stokes takes season's tally to seven with winner
Reigning champions and leaders Celtic claimed their seventh straight Scottish Premiership victory to leave Motherwell two points off the bottom of the table.
Anthony Stokes tucked away the visitors' opener following a glaring defensive error from the hosts.
Celtic dominated in spells and should have added to their lead, James Forrest shooting narrowly wide in one attack.
Motherwell's cause was not helped when Simon Ramsden received a straight red card for clattering into Forrest.
Ronny Deila's side re-establish a four-point lead over Dundee United but Inverness could move above the Tangerines into second if they beat Dundee later on Saturday.
Motherwell's defensive frailties were evident with Celtic's first attack as striker John Guidetti spun away from two defenders to latch on to a simple pass from Scott Brown, only to place the ball wide with just the goalkeeper to beat.
However, the visitors did not have to wait long for their opener as they punished a defensive mix-up in the Steelmen's rearguard.
Ramsden tried to usher Fraser Kerr's pass back to Dan Twardzik but Stefan Johansen nipped in front of the goalkeeper, rounded him and then squared for Stokes to apply the finish past two Motherwell defenders on the goal line.
Forrest was guilty of a miss similar to Guidetti's when he fired wide from the edge of the box and the contrast in the confidence of the two sides was palpable as Celtic continued to create openings at will.
Guidetti, with his back to goal, flicked up a Johansen pass and found the net with an overhead kick but the offside flag had already been raised. However, television replays suggested the Swede had been onside.
Motherwell were given another let-off when Adam Matthews' cross was diverted out of play by Zaine Francis-Angol's arm and it was a corner, rather than a penalty, that was awarded to Deila's men.
Having been dealt such good fortune, the Steelmen finally began to gain some attacking momentum and carved out an excellent chance to equalise.
Moments after Henrik Ojamaa's shot had been blocked by the chest of Efe Ambrose, Keith Lasley flicked a pass on to the edge of the box for Iain Vigurs but the midfielder's tame shot trundled into the arms of keeper Craig Gordon.
It was an advance forward by Scotland cap Forrest that led to Ramsden's dismissal, the defender's clumsy sliding challenge completely missing the ball and taking the winger out of the play.
Still, Celtic struggled to put the result beyond doubt with Guidetti, Emilio Izaguirre and Forrest denied by Twardzik in quick succession.
Such profligacy left the door open for Motherwell to claim an unlikely point and the unmarked Lee Erwin missed an excellent chance when he headed wide from fellow substitute Lionel Ainsworth's cross.
Erwin was then booked for simulation after going down in the box and had one further chance in added time but was well off target.
- 20KerrSubstituted forFergusonat 30'minutes
- 5RamsdenBooked at 66mins
- 11VigursSubstituted forErwinat 79'minutesBooked at 90mins
- 9SuttonSubstituted forAinsworthat 79'minutes
- 5van Dijk
- 8BrownBooked at 21mins
- 49ForrestSubstituted forScepovicat 81'minutes
- 10StokesSubstituted forTonevat 64'minutes
- 9GuidettiSubstituted forCommonsat 88'minutes
- Calum Murray
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Motherwell 0, Celtic 1.
Attempt missed. Lee Erwin (Motherwell) left footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the right.
Lee Erwin (Motherwell) is shown the yellow card.
Lee Erwin (Motherwell) has gone down, but that's a dive.
Attempt missed. Stefan Johansen (Celtic) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left.
Substitution, Celtic. Kris Commons replaces John Guidetti.
Attempt missed. Nir Bitton (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left.
Attempt missed. Lee Erwin (Motherwell) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right.
Substitution, Celtic. Stefan Scepovic replaces James Forrest.
Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Stuart Carswell.
Substitution, Motherwell. Lee Erwin replaces Iain Vigurs.
Substitution, Motherwell. Lionel Ainsworth replaces John Sutton.
Foul by John Guidetti (Celtic).
(Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Aleksandar Tonev (Celtic) right footed shot from outside the box is too high.
Corner, Celtic. Conceded by David Ferguson.
Attempt blocked. James Forrest (Celtic) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Attempt missed. John Guidetti (Celtic) right footed shot from a difficult angle and long range on the left is close, but misses to the right.
Attempt missed. Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic) left footed shot from the left side of the box is too high.