NEIL LENNON praised hat-trick hero Mohamed Elyounoussi as Celtic got back on the title tracks with a rousing 4-1 triumph over Motherwell at Fir Park this afternoon.
The Norwegian international forward was criticised after being caught on film looking at his mobile phone in the Parkhead stand after being substituted in the 4-1 Europa League flop against Sparta Prague on Thursday night.
Former Celtic star Chris Sutton questioned the forward’s commitment to the Hoops and said his actions were totally unacceptable.
However, Elyounoussi answered his snipers with a terrific threesome to ease the pressure on boss Lennon and his team-mates after going into the match with only one win from their previous six outings in which they had conceded 14 goals.
The on-loan Southampton star got the opening goal in the eighth minute with an opportunistic effort from close range after a low drive from Albian Ajeti had rebounded from the base of the upright.
He repeated the feat in the 27th minute when he finished off a delightful move after being set up by Tom Rogic who was also a contender for the Man of the Match award.
Declan Gallagher pulled one back with a header beyond the hesitant Scott Bain in the 72nd minute, but Elyounoussi replied again only moments later with a soaring header after a right-wing cross from Hatem Abd Elhamed who had come on for the limping Jeremie Frimpong after the Dutch teenager had been injured following a reckless challenge by Devante Cole, who was fortunate just to be booked.
Olivier Ntcham, who also came on in the second-half, rolled in the fourth goal in the fading moments to make sure of three points.
Lennon, speaking to the SKY Sports News, said: “I had a brief chat with Elyounoussi. He explained to me what had happened (on Thursday) and that was the end of it.
“He is a top professional. I have no problem with his attitude or the way he behaves around the place. It was never an issue for me.
“You are all analysing everything we are doing at the minute. Elyounoussi on his phone and the body language and this, that and the other. I got what I wanted today. Elyounoussi scored a hat-trick after being criticised unreasonably for looking at a result on his phone the other night.
“I think that’s unfair, but he has responded in the right way. We asked him at half-time to go and get the hat-trick he didn’t get in Lille and it was a brilliant third goal.
“Our reaction to conceding was excellent and I thought we should have won the game by more.”
Reflecting on the calamitous showing against Sparta, Lennon said: “We analysed what we did wrong and the response was great.
“Body language, work-rate, quality of play – it was all there. There is a lot to be positive about it.
“We didn’t panic. We don’t get too low and we don’t get too high. We have a lot of work to do and a long way to go in the season, but to come away and score four is a good sign.
“That’s a good barometer for us.”