Kris Jack at Celtic Park
A well-marshalled Motherwell side fell to a solitary second half strike from Gary Hooper, going down 1-0 to Celtic at Parkhead.
Hooper’s strike on the hour meant Motherwell’s recent run of four wins in a row was ended as Celtic continued there mammoth twenty game winning run.
However, It was a very decent performance by ‘Well, and they were unfortunate to lose to the only clean cut chance their hosts had.
Stuart McCall made one change from the team that triumphed over Hibernian in midweek, with KEITH LASLEY retaining his place after suspension, OMAR DALEY dropping back to the bench. The manager’s faith in TIM CLANCY remained, as the Irishman kept his place in defence, with STEPHEN CRAIGAN once more a defensive sub.
Neil Lennon changed half of his team from their win over Dunfermline on Wednesday, with Samaras, Rogne, Forrest, Wanyama and Matthews all restored to their starting line-up. Scott Brown missed out through injury, while Anthony Stokes and Emilio Izaguirre started on the bench.
Motherwell set their stall out, stifling Celtic in the opening exchanges, and looking to burst forward when they were able. However, the first real opportunity fell the hosts’ way, when Gary Hooper opted to play a ball across the six yard line, when a shot would have been the better option. The ball was intended for Georgios Samaras, but it flew past the Greek and TOM HATELEY cleared.
Samaras was then almost played in on DARREN RANDOLPH from Ledley’s lobbed ball, but the big keeper was alert to get there first.
Motherwell had some good spells of possession, without really testing Forster, with HENRIK OJAMAA constantly barracking Rogne and Wilson with his persistent running. Scotland call up Charlie Mulgrew should have tested Randolph from inside the box, but his shot was deflected past by Clancy.
Randolph was then called in to action when Samaras took the ball off Mulgrew’s foot and had a dig from the edge of the box. The ball bounced up in front of the goalie, who spilled the shot, but was alert enough to make a fine save from Hooper on the rebound.
Attacking chances were sparse for Motherwell and they were given a good opportunity to work Forster when JAMIE MURPHY was fouled on the right wing. Hateley’s ball in found NICKY LAW at the back edge of the box, but as much as the possession and passing drew the Celtic defence out, there was no room for anyone to get a shot away.
As the half petered out SHAUN HUTCHINSON and Hateley picked up bookings for sliding challenges at the edge of the Motherwell box, with Hutchinson’s ruling him out of the home game versus Aberdeen in a few weeks. From the Hateley foul, Randolph made a great punching save from Ki’s whipped effort.
The second half started in much the same vein as the first half was played, with the Steelmen working hard to squeeze Celtic out and looking to cause problems going forward. James Forrest, who was very impressive in the same fixture earlier in the season, made some great room on the right hand side to play in Hooper, but the prolific striker shot well wide of the away goal. Samaras then lobbed a tame shot over Randolph’s bar form six yards after Adam Matthews had played him in.
With Hateley and Hutchinson booked in the first half for late challenges, MICHAEL HIGDON and Lasley were lucky to escape the same fate with crunching tackles on Mulgrew and Wanyama on the half way line. Wanyama made way for Anthony Stokes after 60 minutes, and his arrival was followed by the match winning goal. A throw in by Matthews was won in the box by Samaras, who knocked the ball in to Gary Hooper’s path, and the unmarked striker made no mistake form eight yards. It was the only concentration lapse the Motherwell defence had all game, and was ultimately the one that cost them a point.
To prove this even further, Clancy, Hutchinson and Randolph all made great blocks, clearances and saves to prevent Celtic stretching their lead, with a fingertip stop by the Irish goalkepper to deny Forrest the pick of the bunch.
Ojamaa was subbed for Daley, who tried to use his pace to breach the Celtic backline, but was unable to conjour up an equaliser. Instead, Celtic ran the game out with their one goal lead to record a twentieth consecutive win in the SPL.
Motherwell now go to East End Park in their next outing against Dunfermline, looking to bounce back from today’s unlucky defeat.
[tab:As it happened]
Alan Burrows at Celtic Park
92mins – Full Time!
90mins – Two minutes of time added on – One last chance perhaps?
87mins – Low shot from Mulgrew is comfortable for Randolph. Big GK batters his kick out off Clancy but ‘Well survive.
74mins – Omar Daley on for the booked Ojamaa. Sensible management from McCall. Not quite worked for the wee man today.
73mins – Another half decent chance for Motherwell. Jennings picks up not far from the home box. Drags a low shot well wide though.
77mins – Ojamaa has Motherwell’s first shot on target. Law slips him through but low near post is comfortable for Forster in the home goal.
71mins – Forrest goes on the run, his low shot is brilliantly saved by Randolph for a corner….
70mins – Henrik carded for going down in the box. Referee was right up with play and correct.
61mins – First chance for Humph to run down the wing. Puts in a decent ball. No takers at the near post though… Celtic counter though
60mins – Great block from Hutchy to prevent number two. Corner. ‘Well bring in Humphrey for Murphy before it is taken…
58mins – Celtic brought on Stokes for Wanyama just before that goal too. Signal isn’t great…
GOAL Celtic! Long throw bounces off Samaras into the path of Hooper. He blasts home from close range. 🙁
55mins – First ten or so minutes of the second have matched the first-half. Celtic having most of the ball, Motherwell compact!
48mins – Attendance today is 46,408. 329 in the away end!
46mins – Second half gets started…
45mins – Half Time – 0 – 0. Similar second half please!
45mins – Hateley booked for a foul outside the box. Ki’s curling shot is turned away by Randolph and ‘Well get it clear…
44mins – Half chance for Matthews there. Free-kick on the right, ball loops over Jenno. Header is right at Randolph who gathers.
43mins – Motherwell are being penned in a little. Celtic are having loads of possession but the Steelmen looking stubborn.
38mins – From the free-kick, Ki has a shot deflected just wide… Corner!
38mins – Hutchinson booked and he can have no complaints. That’ll be him suspended for the Aberdeen game (along with Clancy)
35mins – First real bit of attacking play from the Steelmen. Couple of balls into the area but can’t get anything from it….
30mins – Samaras seemed to have the ball for an age inside the box there. Motherwell eventually bundle it out for a corner
24mins – Motherwell holding tight at the minute. Home side look dangerous on the attack though. ‘Well trying to counter…
18mins – Mulgrew fires wide before Randolph is forced into an excellent double save. Celtic turning the screw a bit now…
16mins – Squeaky bum time in the Well defence. Ball ping-balls about for a few seconds before Mulgrew drives it just wide of the post. Phew!
15mins – Celtic are passing the ball well in the final third but Motherwell are defending in numbers and pressing the ball…
12mins – Henrik is taking it tough at the moment. Been smashed three times already – albeit only one of them illegally.
12mins – Samaras has a wee half chance but Randolph is off his line quickly to smother.
11mins – Hooper gets behind the Well defense. Drags a shot cum cross across the box but Hateley hooks clear! Phew
8mins – Well have been doing okay thus far. Lots of the ball not really causing the home side many problems…
1min – Match gets underway…
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“It makes a change from talking about a 4-0 defeat which I have done the last two times.
“I am proud of the players, the biggest disappointment is the goal we lost. We switched off at a long throw-in and to be fair to Tim Clancy he came in and held his hands up, he lost Hooper in the flight of the ball.
“We had a right go at them in the last 25 minutes but we didn’t test their keeper enough.”
Celtic manager Neil Lennon:
“It was a great performance and a great result, another three points and another clean sheet.
“We were in the ascendancy and at 1-0 it is always a little bit tense but I don’t remember my goalkeeper having to make a save. ”