The content of this message was unmistakeable. Perhaps Mohamed Elyounoussi could even expect a few congratulatory texts. Providing, of course, that he hasn’t binned his mobile after that midweek controversy.
Pilloried for taking a peek at his phone after being substituted during the Europa League humiliation against Sparta Prague, Elyounoussi delivered the best possible response at Fir Park.
Any questions about his commitment were answered where it mattered. For under-fire manager Neil Lennon – and Celtic’s Premiership prospects – the value of the Norwegian’s hat-trick was immense.
Mohamed Elyounoussi celebrates after completing his hat-trick against Motherwell
Elyounoussi wheels away in celebration after opening the scoring in the eighth minute
It will take much more than this to dispel all the doubts about the club’s trajectory under Lennon’s command, but Elyounoussi ensured the noise surrounding his manager’s position would not grow any louder. Collectively, this was a badly-needed result. And one achieved with neither Shane Duffy nor Odsonne Edouard in the starting line-up.
Lennon had drawn a line under the phone incident, insisting Elyounoussi would not face any punishment for apparently receiving a score check on Thursday night’s other Group G game. That reprieve extended to his retention of a starting position. And how the Southampton loanee rewarded that faith.
His first two goals put Celtic in first-half control. His third quelled Motherwell hope of a comeback. By the time substitute Oliver Ntcham knocked in a late fourth, the heavy lifting had been done.
It was just a second win in seven matches for the Parkhead outfit, providing a little injection of stability prior to the international break.
For Motherwell, the wait for a win over Celtic has been extended to 16 games. When Declan Gallagher headed beyond Scott Bain with 18 minutes to go, it seemed they might just provoke another crumble in the visitors’ backline. Elyounoussi had other ideas.
The Norweigan nets his second from close range midway through the first half at Fir Park
Elyounoussi (centre) is congratulated by his team mates after scoring his side’s second goal
Changes by Lennon were inevitable. In the end, he made only two. But they were significant.
The return to fitness of Kris Ajer enabled Brighton loanee Duffy to be taken out of the firing line at centre-back after a miserable run of performances. Edouard was also demoted to the bench as Albian Ajeti was picked up front ahead of midweek scorer Leigh Griffiths.
Celtic desperately solidity. Motherwell’s task was to try and prise open the cracks through the application of early pressure. But precisely the opposite happened.
Offering up a gift of an eighth minute goal, the home side lifted all the anxiety from the shoulders of their opponents. Lennon could scarcely have believed his good fortune.
Only Liam Polworth knew what he was thinking when he attempted a pass to Declan Gallagher in the most dangerous of areas. It was instantly picked off, with Ajeti taking over to crack an angled shot off the inside of the far post. Elyounoussi followed up to drill beyond the helpless Aaron Champman.
Celtic had already shown a sign of their intent when Scott Brown and Callum McGregor combined smartly to set up Christie for an attempt held. There was a greater slickness about their midfield movement.
For all their recent troubles, the Parkhead squad has more than enough talent capable of rising to any sign of encouragement. Motherwell were in trouble.
They sought to respond when Tony Watt was picked out with a lobbed pass and rolled across the face of goal for Devante Cole. An expertly-timed intervention from Ajer snuffed out the threat.
A penalty claim followed when Callum Lang’s meandering run ended in a tangle of legs with Brown inside the area. Referee Andrew Dallas took a long look but his whistle remained silent – much to the frustration of Robinson in his technical area.
Motherwell were presenting some defensive posers. And Celtic didn’t always convince in their answers. Mistakes looked possible.
Just as the Fir Park outfit were starting to dream of parity, however, the dancing feet of Tom Rogic shifted it out of reach.
Jeremie Frimpong fed the Australian, who glided away from Barry Maguire at the touchline and cut back for Elyounoussi. Again the finish was unerring. It was reminder of just how valuable the creativity of Rogic can be.
Frimpong was less convincing defensively when allowed Tony Watt to get a run inside him, the former Parkhead striker stumbling as he poked an attempt narrowly off target.
Rogic, though, orchestrated what should have been a third for Celtic two minutes before the break. A lightning break saw him again evade Maguire – who was retrospectively booked for lunging in – to set up Christie on the fringe of the area. The Scotland man cut back onto his right foot but curled too high. By his standards, it was a miss.
It also left the second half more finely balanced than it might have been. Another goal for Celtic would end the contest. But Motherwell knew they were not yet out of it.
Robinson’s men sought to make their presence felt. A corner from Polworth caused alarm in the visitor’s area, with Laxalt first using his chest to deny Gallagher’s header then blocking Cole on the goal-line as the forward tried to force the ball over.
The Uruguayan had to make another good challenge on Lang before the hour mark after Polworth again delivered. Motherwell had upped the aggression, yet still couldn’t seriously test Scott Bain.
That aggression was taken too far by Cole when he caught Frimpong with his studs. It was ugly but Dallas deemed a yellow card sufficient.
Polworth was on a mission to atone for his early error and finally gained some payback after 72 minutes. Christie conceded a free-kick that the midfielder delivered deep. Gallagher rose to guide an excellent header inside Bain’s far post.
Celtic were back under pressure. Ajeti and Frimpong had exited for Edouard and Hatem Abd Elhamed. Another reaction was required to prevent stress levels hitting the red zone.
Elyounoussi again stepped up in the 76th minute. Drifting into space at the back post, he got the jump on Stephen O’Donnell to meet Elhamed’s terrific cross with a header that packed both power and direction.
Chapman had no chance. When Elyounoussi’s cutback was then blocked, allowing Edouard to set up Ntcham, Celtic – and Lennon – had shifted a little further from the storm.