The predictable victory over Motherwell which took them to the top of the SPFL Premiership was delivered with the minimum of fuss. They played well and within themselves, and they neither went through the gears nor looked under any threat. As is often the case in home games which follow the big European nights - this one came four days after the adrenaline rush of facing Barcelona - the Celtic support often found its attention straying. Now and again the focus fell on James Forrest.
Against Barcelona he had come on for the closing stages. Here, the early injury suffered by Adam Matthews in a robust challenge from Keith Lasley ended the Welshman's involvement after only 15 minutes and allowed substitute Forrest a prolonged run-out. It would be an exaggeration to say he is now half the player he was before, but the weight loss he suffered while in hospital with a respiratory virus was obvious just from looking at him. "I lost a bit of weight because I wasn't eating," said the mere slip of a lad. "For 10 days I wasn't the best but I just look forward now. I was gutted to miss out in the San Siro and only managed 30 minutes against Barcelona, so I hope to kick on in the remainder of the games."
Forrest is one of Neil Lennon's favourites. The manager felt Celtic missed the 22-year-old's width, direct running and goal threat against AC Milan in the San Siro. Lennon has occasionally felt the need to defend Forrest via the media, and seems to feel that the wider football public, and even many within the Celtic support, do not appreciate his talent as much as they should.
After Champions League qualification was secured by the tense 3-0 win at home to Shakhter Karagandy, in which Forrest scored, Lennon alluded to heckling the winger sometimes received after failing to beat his man. It was news to Forrest, though. "I think it is just the same for any player," he said. "The fans demand the best from every player and they just want success the same as us. They give you just as much praise when you are doing well. Everyone knows you cannot always beat your man, even Gareth Bale can't do that. It can't happen every time you get the ball, but when you do, it's all about the delivery. It's good to get the manager's backing, but I hadn't really noticed it [fans' criticism] until the manager brought it up."
Forrest is a valued player for Scotland manager Gordon Strachan but he has been excused a call-up for next Tuesday's Croatia game in order to complete his recuperation with Celtic. That kindness was much appreciated. Scotland can wait. Forrest's motivation is now to begin his Champions League campaign in earnest by being on from kick-off when Ajax come to Glasgow for matchday three on October 22.
Matthews could miss all four of the remaining group games if his injury is confirmed as a fractured collarbone, which would rule him out for three months. It was one of those cruel injuries which can arise in otherwise unremarkable matches such as this one. Motherwell undid themselves when goalkeeper Lee Hollis made a mess of coming for a Mikael Lustig cross which had been flicked on by Kris Commons. Hollis was all over the place, although it still required a crisp and skilful finish from Anthony Stokes to score from a tight angle.
Four minutes into the second half Commons went through a weak Stephen McManus challenge, ran across Lasley and clipped a deft finish past Hollis for 2-0. Celtic's clean sheet was an appropriate reward for their central defenders, Virgil van Dijk and Efe Ambrose, who took turns to patrol upfield with the ball at their feet. Neither was ever troubled defensively, although Emilio Izaguirre continues to look unsure of himself. It would be a surprise if a left-back is not added in the January transfer window.
The defeat was Motherwell's first in seven matches and they remain third in the table. They improved in the second half but never imposed themselves on the game or got their passing going. They made too many mistakes to put Celtic under any pressure. Five minutes from time they nearly scored but John Sutton's close-range header was brilliantly saved, one-handed, by Fraser Forster. There isn't much Forster can do to further his England prospects on days like these, other than showing he is still wide awake when he has his first save to make five minutes from full time. He did, and that was the end of Motherwell.