Phil McGhee at Fir Park
A goal in each half gave ‘Well a narrow win over Celtic, exactly two years after their last win over the Parkhead side.
James McFadden made his first start, wide left in place of Stuart Carswell and Stevie Hammell return in place of the injured Zaine Francis-Angol – the only changes to the side which was comprehensively beaten by Ross County on Saturday.
And from the kick-off there was a sense of Stuart McCall’s men looking to atone for that performance at Dingwall, setting about Celtic with a mixture of determination and purpose, which they maintained for the entire ninety minutes.
The first chance came ‘Well’s way after five minutes when Nicky Law’s 30-yard free kick curled the ball a few yards wide of Fraser Forster’s post.
The home side continued to search for the opening goal and after Stevie Hammell’s free kick bounced out of a packed penalty box Simon Ramsden slashed his volley off target.
Foster was forced into his first save after 16 minutes easily smothering Keith Lasley’s 20-yard trundler.
Although Celtic responded when Kris Commons fired a free kick wide of Darren Randolph’s goal, it was not unexpected when ‘Well grabbed the lead in the 31st minute.
Lasley sent Law into the box, and after turning Victor Wanyama a couple of times he screwed his shot across the face of the goal. Chris Humphrey nipped in on the blind side of Emilio Izaguirre to squeeze the ball inside the post to stun the league leaders.
Celtic appeared a bit rattled and few tasty challenges from both sets of players before half-time gave the game a competitive cup tie look and set the scene for the second half.
The action was mostly confined to the middle of the park and it took Celtic until 57 minutes to force the first save from Randolph, the ‘Well keeper getting down to hold a drive from Commons.
Five minutes later the Parkhead side snatched the equaliser. James Forrest wide on the right touchline somehow found space for a delivery and as Randolph waited to collect his cross, Georgios Samaras ghosted in front of him to nod the ball into the net.
After an very impressive and influential 70 minutes, McFadden was replaced by Carswell and Celtic brought on their leading scorer Gary Hooper.
However, it was ‘Well’s hit man Michael Higdon who found the net after 73 minutes. Law was again the provider, this time turning Efe Ambrose before floating a delightful ball to the back of the six-yard box leaving Higdon to confidently volley high into the net for his 19th goal of the season.
As Motherwell looked for a third goal to seal the points Randolph was finally called into some sustained action.
A great block with his legs denied Joe Ledley from a couple of yards before the Fir Park keeper comfortably dealt with a Commons’ header and a swerving drive from Forrest.
Not unexpectedly Celtic put the home defence under some pressure in the closing but every ‘Well player stood firm to comfortably hold on for a deserved win.
Apart from hoisting ‘Well back up to second place the performance was the perfect tonic after two defeats and ahead of the trip to Tynecastle on Saturday.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
An unbelievable victory for the Steelmen!!!!
IT’S FULL TIME!!!! Motherwell 2 – 1 Celtic
91mins: Matthews launching in long-throws but the ‘Well defence hold strong!
3 minutes added on!
89mins: Motherwell sub: McHugh on for Higdon
Randolph wins a free-kick after a foul from Wanyama
87mins: Free-kick to Celtic….Dangerous postition out wide.
84mins: Forrest shoots straight at Randolph from 18 yards. Into the final 5 minutes!
83mins: Bit of a scare there as Commons heads Forrest’s cross goalwards. Straight at Randolph, thankfully
79mins: Motherwell sub: Ojamaa off for Higginbotham
78mins: Great save from Randolph at the feet of Ledley!!!
74mins: Celtic look to reply quickly but Matthew’s cross is over everyone in the box and out for a goal kick.
72mins: Law with a beautiful cross to the back post where the big man sent it home with a sweet volley! 2-1
HIGDON MAKES IT 2-1!!!!!
Celtic sub: Stokes off for Hooper.
70mins: Motherwell sub, McFadden off for Carswell
64mins: Wanyama booked for hacking down McFadden
62mins: GOAL – Samaras levels for Celtic. Heads home Forrest’s cross in front of Randolph 1-1
61mins: Celtic sub, Ambrose on for Kayal
Wanyama heads clear and Celtic break. Randolph does fantastically well to put Commons off and concede a corner.
58mins: Trickery from McFadden wins yet another corner.
57mins: Comfortable save for Randolph from Commons’ shot on the edge of the box.
56mins: Wanyama slides in to clear Law’s cross after Faddy slips him in inside the box.
55mins: Ledley volleys over from 18 yards.
54mins: Celtic Sub – Ledley on for Rogic
Law swings it in and Celtic clear
52min: Humphrey wins another corner for ‘Well off Matthews.
Commons delivers…..Higdon powers clear.
50mins: Corner to Celtic this time.
Faddy delivers to Hutchinson who can’t quite get a firm connection with his head. Wanyama clears.
47mins: McFadden wins ‘Well a corner.
Second half underway! #COYW
HT: Motherwell 1 – 0 Celtic
41mins: Good attacking plays from ‘Well breaks down when Humphrey slices his cross over the bar.
33mins: Commons blasts well over from distance. No threat to Randolph.
31mins: Law jinks inside and out and his shot is diverted into the net by Humphrey at the back post. 1-0!!!
28mins: Good pressing allows McFadden to rob Matthews of the ball and slide in Lasley. The captain’s first touch allows Celtic to clear.
27mins: Nearly an OG from Hutchinson. He went to sweep Forrest’s cross clear but ended up almost diverting past Randolph!
17mins: Dangerous free-kick for Celtic. Commons drives it but it’s always flying wide of the post.
16mins: Space opens up for Lasley to get s shot off . It’s 25 yards out and is the sting is deflected out it allowing Forster to gather
12mins: Rogic tries his luck on his left foot from 25 yards. High and wide.
11mins: Bit of last-ditch defending from Cummins, swiping the ball clear from the feet of Commons.
9mins: Forrest finds Stokes at the back post with his cross but the striker gets it all wrong and shoots at fresh air.
Higdon nods the free-kick down to Ramsden who volleys wide and over
7mins: McFadden fouled just inside the Celtic half. Chance to fire a ball in.
5mins: Commons tries to slide in Stokes with a free-kick but the striker is flagged offside.
Law curls it but it’s just wide. On reflection, a little far out to test Forster
4mins: Rogic brings down Lasley in a dangerous shooting position!
3mins: Decent start from Motherwell. Had some nice forward possession but hasn’t came to anything as yet.
Celtic get us underway. #COYW
Here come the teams! Come on Motherwell!
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“We play Law and Las (Keith Lasley) in there and they both want to get forward and sometimes it leaves us a little bit open. It was a really attacking side with two up front and Faddy and Humph wide.
“But I thought at the back Shaun Hutchinson and young Adam Cummins were outstanding and Lawsy did what I know he is capable of; he has got that little bit of magic.
“I thought McFadden showed his hunger and desire and it rubbed off on everybody throughout the side. It’s a fantastic result and fantastic performance.
“All we asked for before the game was enthusiasm, desire, work-rate and really have a go, and then when you get in the final third hopefully we’ve got that bit of magic and take some chances.”
Celtic manager Neil Lennon:
“I’m raging. I made changes with games in mind but still put a strong team out.
“People keep coming to me looking to play – they got the opportunity and didn’t play.
“It seems to me if I leave Hooper out the team then we suffer. We were very, very poor going forward in the first half.
“We got a good goal to equalise, we drop a clanger, then we bring Hooper on and made more chances in the final 15 minutes when he is on than we did in the whole game.
“I’m pretty angry with some of the performances.”