A much-changed Motherwell side went down 4-0 to Celtic yesterday in the final SPL match of the 2010/11 campaign.
‘Well, without the likes of Randolph, Craigan, Lasley, Jennings, Murphy and Sutton, battled hard for ninety minutes but were little match for a Celtic side looking to win the league Championship.
Goals from Hooper, Samaras, McGeady and McCourt helped the home side to a comfortable win, but their efforts were in vein as Rangers put five past Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.
Celtic Park was bouncing at kick-off but it was almost brought to an immediate hush when Steve Jones came within an inch of putting the Steelmen ahead inside the opening minute. The Northern Irishman picked up the ball inside the area after good work from Chris Humphrey on the flank but his first time effort hit the ground and bounced just wide of Forster’s right-hand post.
It was a wake-up call, if they needed it, for Lennon’s men and they gave Lee Hollis his first test as a Motherwell goalkeeper on the seventh minute when Samaras raced clear of the defence, but the former Airdrie United man did excellently to beat away his shot.
Forrest followed that with an effort from distance which flew over before Hollis was again called into action. Gary Hooper collected after industrious play on the flank by Honduran Izaguire and the England U21 international sent a curling effort towards goal – but Motherwell’s number two stopper was on top form yet again, turning it away with some aplomb.
Down the other end and Shaun Hutchinson passed up a glorious opportunity to give his side the lead with a header from close range. Tom Hateley’s whipped corner kick landed perfectly for the big Geordie, who out-jumped giant Swede Daniel Majstorović, but his bullet header from just three years out went over when a goal seemed certain.
Play was swinging from end-to-end in a pulsating opening to the match and both Hooper and Scott Brown passed up opportunities to put the hosts ahead. Hooper, Celtic’s top scorer, did well to outstrip Gavin Gunning but he was again frustrated by Hollis, the 25-year-old getting down low to spread himself and block. The rebound fell kindly for Scotland international Scott Brown but the he could only drive wide with the goal at his mercy.
Celtic were beginning to turn the screw and Hutchinson twice had to make last-ditch interventions to prevent the opening goal. The first, a header from a Ki Sung-Yeung cross, the second a clearance from Samaras’ cross that was heading for Hooper at the far post.
The pressure finally paid off, though, as Celtic got their noses in-front thanks to Hooper, the prolific striker getting his first against the Steelmen this term. The former Scunthorpe hitman turned smartly inside the area but his initial shot was blocked by a crowded Motherwell rearguard. However, Hooper was first to react to the rebound and he poked it past an outstretched Hollis for 1-0; the celebrations were slightly subdued as news from Rugby Park was that Rangers were already 3-0 ahead and cruising to the title.
In spite of results not going for them elsewhere, Celtic continued to attack and the Fir Parkers had debutant Hollis to thank for a string of excellent saves that kept things respectable. A superb double save from Ki looked to be the last of the first half opportunities, but Georgios Samaras had other ideas.
A matter of minutes before the break the Greek international combined with Charlie Mulgrew on the edge of the area, and when he got the return ball from the former Aberdeen man he was afforded the freedom of the eighteen-yard box to slot past a helpless Hollis to effectively kill the game as a contest.
Indeed, the same player almost made it three on the stroke of half-time but was again denied by some brilliant Hollis goalkeeping; the ‘Well stopper getting back on to his line to turn a lob over the bar and out for a corner.
Celtic introduced Shaun Maloney at the interval, in place of Emilio Izaguirre and the striker didn’t have to wait long to get involved, scoring the third just six minutes into the second half.
The former Aston Villa man drove at the ‘Well rearguard, skipped past two defenders, before smashing a shot high past Hollis from just inside the area.
The worry then, for ‘Well, was that Celtic could go on to record a hammering but, to their credit, Stuart McCall’s men managed to shut-up-shop, somewhat.
The only breach in the last thirty-five minutes came from another substitute, Paddy McCourt. Maloney was again involved, whipping in a dangerous ball from the left for Samaras who was well tackled by Gunning. The ball fell kindly for the Northern Irishman who lashed past Hollis to complete the scoring.
The closing stages of the game were played at a snail’s pace, McCall content to throw on three changes to further freshen up the side.
‘Well now face their biggest match in two decades at Hampden next Sunday. The excitement is already building.
[tab:As it happened]
91mins – FULL TIME – The referee blows for the end of the match.
89mins – The referee blows for offside against Esteban Casagolda. Free kick taken by Daniel Majstorovic.
88mins – Sung-Yeung Ki takes the free kick.
88mins – Booking Stuart Carswell is booked.
88mins – Stuart Carswell gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Scott Brown.
87mins – Tom Hateley fouled by Gary Hooper, the ref awards a free kick. Tom Hateley takes the direct free kick.
87mins – Shaun Maloney has shot on goal from just outside the box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.
86mins – Sung-Yeung Ki takes a shot. Blocked by Gary Hooper.
83mins – Corner from the right by-line taken by Tom Hateley, Close range header by Steven Saunders goes over the bar.
83mins – Free kick awarded for a foul by Sung-Yeung Ki on Stewart Carswell. Stevie Hammell restarts play with the free kick.
81mins – Patrick McCourt produces a cross, save by Lee Hollis.
79mins – Free kick awarded for a foul by Stewart Carswell on Scott Brown. Shaun Maloney shoots direct from the free kick.
78mins – Sung-Yeung Ki fouled by Jonathan Page, the ref awards a free kick. Charlie Mulgrew takes the free kick.
77mins – Steve Jones produces a cross, free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Daniel Majstorovic by Esteban Casagolda. Fraser Forster restarts play with the free kick.
74mins – Substitution Georgios Samaras leaves the field to be replaced by Efrain Juarez.
73mins – Substitution Esteban Casagolda is brought on as a substitute for Francis Jeffers.
73mins – The ball is crossed by Steve Jones.
73mins – Patrick McCourt takes a shot. Save by Lee Hollis.
70mins – Georgios Samaras provided the assist for the goal.
70mins – GOAL – Patrick McCourt: Celtic 4 – 0 Motherwell Patrick McCourt scores a goal from inside the penalty area low into the middle of the goal.
69mins – Daniel Majstorovic takes the free kick.
69mins – Substitution Robert McHugh is brought on as a substitute for Chris Humphrey.
69mins – Foul by Ross Forbes on Gary Hooper, free kick awarded.
69mins – The ball is delivered by Tom Hateley.
67mins – Free kick awarded for a foul by Stewart Carswell on Scott Brown. Direct free kick taken by Mark Wilson.
65mins – Substitution James Forrest goes off and Patrick McCourt comes on.
65mins – Substitution Jonathan Page on for Shaun Hutchinson.
64mins – Corner taken by Sung-Yeung Ki from the right by-line played to the near post, Daniel Majstorovic produces a header from inside the six-yard box that clears the bar.
63mins – Gary Hooper takes a shot. Stewart Carswell gets a block in.
62mins – Francis Jeffers is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Sung-Yeung Ki takes the indirect free kick.
58mins – Centre by Tom Hateley, blocked by Daniel Majstorovic.
57mins – Foul by Sung-Yeung Ki on Ross Forbes, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Steven Saunders.
56mins – The referee blows for offside against Sung-Yeung Ki. Indirect free kick taken by Lee Hollis.
55mins – The assistant referee signals for offside against Gary Hooper. Lee Hollis restarts play with the free kick.
52mins – GOAL – Shaun Maloney: Celtic 3 – 0 Motherwell Shaun Maloney gets on the score sheet with a goal from deep inside the penalty box to the bottom right corner of the goal.
50mins – The ball is swung over by Ross Forbes, Daniel Majstorovic makes a clearance.
45mins – Shot by Shaun Maloney from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the goal.
45mins – The referee gets the second half started.
45mins – Substitution Shaun Maloney on for Emilio Izaguirre.
45+2mins – HALF TIME – The ref blows to signal half-time.
45mins – Georgios Samaras takes a shot. Save by Lee Hollis.
45mins – Steve Jones crosses the ball, Glenn Loovens manages to make a clearance.
44mins – The ball is sent over by Charlie Mulgrew, clearance made by Shaun Hutchinson.
42mins – Centre by Charlie Mulgrew, Stewart Carswell manages to make a clearance.
42mins – Georgios Samaras fouled by Shaun Hutchinson, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Sung-Yeung Ki.
41mins – James Forrest delivers the ball, clearance made by Gavin Gunning.
39mins – Assist on the goal came from Charlie Mulgrew.
39mins – GOAL – Georgios Samaras: Celtic 2 – 0 Motherwell Georgios Samaras fires in a goal from deep inside the penalty box to the bottom left corner of the goal.
39mins – Charlie Mulgrew sends in a cross,
38mins – Sung-Yeung Ki takes a shot. Save by Lee Hollis.
37mins – Corner taken right-footed by Sung-Yeung Ki from the right by-line to the near post, Stewart Carswell makes a clearance.
37mins – Sung-Yeung Ki takes a shot. Save by Lee Hollis.
36mins – Corner taken short by Sung-Yeung Ki. Charlie Mulgrew produces a cross, Shaun Hutchinson manages to make a clearance.
35mins – Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on James Forrest by Shaun Hutchinson. Glenn Loovens takes the free kick.
34mins – Corner from the right by-line taken by Tom Hateley, Scott Brown manages to make a clearance.
34mins – Shaun Hutchinson takes the direct free kick.
34mins – Booking James Forrest is booked.
33mins – Unfair challenge on Gavin Gunning by James Forrest results in a free kick.
32mins – Steven Saunders crosses the ball, blocked by Charlie Mulgrew.
32mins – James Forrest sends in a cross, Shaun Hutchinson manages to make a clearance.
31mins – The ball is swung over by Charlie Mulgrew, clearance by Steve Jones.
31mins – Francis Jeffers is ruled offside. Fraser Forster takes the free kick.
29mins – Mark Wilson provided the assist for the goal.
29mins – GOAL – Gary Hooper: Celtic 1 – 0 Motherwell A goal is scored by Gary Hooper from inside the six-yard box to the bottom left corner of the goal.
28mins – The ball is delivered by Mark Wilson.
28mins – Sung-Yeung Ki takes a inswinging corner.
27mins – Corner taken by Sung-Yeung Ki, clearance made by Chris Humphrey.
26mins – A cross is delivered by Georgios Samaras, clearance made by Shaun Hutchinson.
26mins – Tom Hateley takes a shot. Save by Fraser Forster.
23mins – Corner taken right-footed by Sung-Yeung Ki.
23mins – Corner taken right-footed by Sung-Yeung Ki from the left by-line, Shaun Hutchinson makes a clearance.
23mins – Daniel Majstorovic takes a shot. Blocked by Shaun Hutchinson.
22mins – Unfair challenge on James Forrest by Ross Forbes results in a free kick. Sung-Yeung Ki takes the direct free kick.
22mins – Francis Jeffers concedes a free kick for a foul on Glenn Loovens. Free kick taken by Daniel Majstorovic.
21mins – James Forrest takes a shot. Shaun Hutchinson gets a block in.
21mins – Francis Jeffers has an effort at goal from close in which goes wide right of the target.
19mins – Scott Brown has an effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the right of the goal.
18mins – Tom Hateley takes the outswinging corner, Shaun Hutchinson produces a header from inside the area that goes over the bar.
17mins – Daniel Majstorovic concedes a free kick for a foul on Francis Jeffers. Free kick crossed left-footed by Ross Forbes, clearance by Daniel Majstorovic.
16mins – Francis Jeffers concedes a free kick for a foul on Emilio Izaguirre. Daniel Majstorovic takes the direct free kick.
15mins – Corner taken right-footed by Sung-Yeung Ki from the left by-line, Scott Brown takes a shot. Steven Saunders gets a block in.
14mins – James Forrest delivers the ball, clearance made by Gavin Gunning.
14mins – A cross is delivered by Gary Hooper.
13mins – Georgios Samaras challenges Stevie Hammell unfairly and gives away a free kick. Lee Hollis takes the free kick.
11mins – Gavin Gunning concedes a free kick for a foul on Gary Hooper. Mark Wilson restarts play with the free kick.
10mins – Ross Forbes has an effort at goal from long range that misses to the right of the target.
9mins – Gary Hooper takes a shot. Save made by Lee Hollis.
8mins – Shot from just outside the area by James Forrest goes over the bar.
8mins – Georgios Samaras takes a shot. Save by Lee Hollis.
6mins – The ball is crossed by Mark Wilson.
5mins – Scott Brown challenges Ross Forbes unfairly and gives away a free kick. Ross Forbes delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from right channel, clearance by Sung-Yeung Ki.
2mins – Shaun Hutchinson challenges Georgios Samaras unfairly and gives away a free kick. A cross is delivered by Sung-Yeung Ki, Headed effort from deep inside the penalty area by Daniel Majstorovic misses to the left of the goal.
1min – Steve Jones produces a right-footed shot from the edge of the box and misses to the left of the target.
1min – KICK OFF
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I am not complaining to be a tactical genius or wizard but I am sure Neil (Lennon) will know that wasn’t our strongest side today. We did have a couple of niggles today and there was no point in taking any risks. It will be different personnel and, hopefully, a different performance next week.
“One or two good things to come out of it, the young boy Carswell at 17 stuck to his role well against a Scottish International in Scott Brown. The keeper, Lee Hollis, also did exceptionally well as he needed to do.
“Pleased it’s over and we can look forward to a game that in my time as a manager which is the biggest of my career. It is the same for some of the lads in the dressing room. If you have been through the town of Motherwell you will see that everyone is up for it.
“We have to bring our best game to the final next week, all the pressure and expectation levels are all on Celtic. Sometimes being the underdog isn’t a bad thing, and we will be looking to upset the apple cart.”
Celtic manager Neil Lennon:
“A lot of them can take a great amount of pride from their contribution to the season.
“There’s been a big progression, but at a club like this we desperately wanted to win the championship.
“To accumulate 92 points, and lose by a point is sore to take. We’ve been tremendously consistent over the season.
“You could maybe look back at the three home draws in November / December that have came back to hurt us. That was a wee rocky spell that we went through but we came out of that very, very well at the turn of the year.”