Phil McGhee Fir Park
10-man Motherwell put on a brave show but still lost out 0-1 to SPFL Premiership league-leaders Celtic at Fir Park.
After going behind after only five minutes to an Anthony Stokes goal and having withstood an opening onslaught, ‘Well showed great determination to keep themselves in the game until the final whistle.
And despite playing out the final 25 minutes with ten men, when Simon Ramsden was red carded, it was Kenny Black’s side who finished the game the stronger and passed up chances for an equaliser.
That seemed impossible for a ‘Well side that made two enforced changes from the side which started against Dundee United, Fraser Kerr and Stuart Carswell coming in for the injured pair Mark O’Brien and Paul Lawson.
It was a memorable milestone for Keith Lasley who made his 400th appearance in a Motherwell jersey and as ever he enjoyed his midfield tussle with Scott Brown and the attention of the Celtic fans.
But along with his team mates it looked like being a long and miserable ninety minutes with the ‘Well goal under siege from the start.
After last weeks heroics, Dan Twardzik found himself one on one with John Guidetti within two minutes, but the Celtic striker steered his shot just wide much to the relief of the home fans.
The opening goal, though, was only delayed three minutes when a dreadful passback from Kerr allowed Stefan Johansen to nip round Twardzik. He then cut the ball back leaving Anthony Stokes the easy task of driving the ball between Ramsden and Stephen McManus on the goal-line.
A low drive from James Forrest might have made it two for the visitors, before the home side made their first attack on Craig Gordon’s goal. The ‘keeper wasn’t threatened, though, as Iain Vigurs fired over before a strong run and inviting cross from Henrik Ojamma found no takers.
A swift Celtic move after 20 minutes finished with a powerful Johansen shot which Twardzik was well positioned to block.
‘Well’s defensive cause wasn’t helped after 29 minutes when Kerr limped off to be replaced by 18 year old David Ferguson.
Despite their terrible start Motherwell grew stronger as half progressed and as half-time approached they might have sneaked an equaliser.
In the 39th minute a thunderous drive towards goal from Ojamma knocked Efe Ambrose off his feet. With the Nigerian defender still grounded Celtic played on but when they lost possession Lasley’s shot from the edge of the box forced the first save from Gordon.
Two minutes later Josh Law swept a cross to the edge of the six yard box and the inrushing John Sutton was only denied by Virgil Van Dijk’s outstretched toe. From the resultant corner Ramsden’s header was on target but comfortably held by Gordon.
‘Well started the second half in the same fashion and pressure on the Celtic defence forced a poor clearance from Nir Bitton but Ojamma’s volley from the edge of the box swerved wide.
The promise of a fightback was almost undone in the 52nd minute when Forrest wriggled though the home defence but his fierce shot was superbly held by Twardzik low to his left.
The Parkhead side began to threaten in attack but the Fir Park were coping until they were reduced to ten men after 65 minutes.
As Forrest raced through on goal, Ramsden was forced into a last ditch tackle at the edge of the box which sent the Celtic winger flying and the ‘Well defender walking up the tunnel.
That forced Ferguson into central defence with Law dropping to full back and leaving the home side on the back foot for a spell of the game.
For the second successive home game Twardzik kept his side’s hope’s alive with a series of outstanding saves. Having blocked angled drive’s from Guidetti and Izaguirre, the ‘Well ‘keeper produced a stunning reflect save to deny Matthews from five yards before diving bravely at Guidetti’s feet.
That kept the home side in the game and with 12 minutes left, Kenny Black sensed an equaliser might be on the cards when he made a double substitution bringing on Lionel Ainsworth and Lee Erwin.
The attack minded pairing brought an immediate presence and menace to a Celtic defence which then had an uncomfortable closing spell.
And eight minutes from time Motherwell should have had an equaliser their spirited performance might have merited.
Ainsworth’s cross picked out Erwin completely unmarked just six yards out, but with Gordon’s goal begging the young striker powered his header down and wide of target.
Undaunted, ‘Well pressed until the final whistle and in injury time, having been booked a minute earlier for diving over Ambrose, Erwin stepped inside the Celtic defender at the corner of the box, only to curl his shot beyond the far post.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at Fir Park
FT: Motherwell 0 – 1 Celtic #MFCvCFC
92mins: Erwin tries to curl a shot to the far post but it’s well side in the end
91mins: Erwin booked for simulation in the box #MFCvCFC
2 minutes added on
88mins: Celtic sub, Commons on for Guidetti #MFCvCFC
82mins: HUGE chance for Erwin who has the whole goal to aim for but heads wide with nobody near him! #MFCvCFC
80mins: Celtic sub, Forrest off for Scepovic #MFCvCFC
78mins: Double ‘Well sub, Erwin and Ainsworth on for Vigurs and Sutton #MFCvCFC
76mins: Quite incredible save from Twardzik to deny Forrest from point black range. Celtic should have scored at least one of those chances
75mins: Again, the ball is put in on a plate for Guidetti but gets it all wrong again on the edge of the box #MFCvCFC
74mins: Unbelievable miss from Guidetti at the front post. Seemed to get his feet all wrong and taps the ball harmlessly out of play
72mins: Another fine stop from Twardzik! This time he uses his foot to stop Izaguirre’s shot who then slices the rebound wide #MFCvCFC
69mins: Superb save from Twardzik, diving to his left to palm away Guidetti’s curling shot #MFCvCFC
65mins: RED CARD: Ramsden is sent off, ref says it was a clear goalscoring opportunity. Free-kick 20 yards out for Celtic #MFCvCFC
63mins: Celtic sub, Tonev on for Stokes #MFCvCFC
62mins: Twardzik races off his line to gather in Matthews low cross which was Guidetti bound #MFCvCFC
60mins: Ramsden picks the ball up in the Celtic half but doesn’t spot the run of Law who would have been through on goal. #MFCvCFC
58mins: Last ditch interception from McManus as Matthews looked to slide in Stokes in the middle of the goal #MFCvCFC
From the corner, Guidetti heads over at the front post.
56mins: Good covering from Law as he gets back to slide the ball out for a corner as Stokes threatened #MFCvCFC
52mins: Space opens up for Forrest just inside the box. He shoots with his left foot an Twardzik makes a good stop, diving low to his right
47mins: Decent bit of pressure from ‘Well but when the ball eventually falls to Ojamaa on the edge of the box, he slices his shot well wide
Stokes and Johansen get the second half underway #MFCvCFC
Teams are back out. Still 1-0 here to Celtic, need a big second half #MFCvCFC
HT: Motherwell 0 – 1 Celtic #MFCvCFC
41mins: Sutton fires a great ball in across goal towards Law but Izaguirre gets there first and knocks it wide for a corner. #MFCvCFC
38mins: Arguably ‘Well’s best chance of the game, Ojamaa fires straight at Ambrose then Vigurs is slid in but Gordon saves with ease.
29mins: Motherwell sub, young David Ferguson is on for the injured Fraser Kerr #MFCvCFC
20mins: Celtic cut through the ‘Well defence and eventually Johansen is slid in. From inside the box, he fires straight at Twarzik #MFCvCFC
18mins: Lasley plays a free-kick down the left wing to Ojamaa who then swings a cross into the box but it’s too deep and Izaguirre mops up
14mins: First bit of attacking intent from ‘Well but Vigurs’ shot from 25 yards is way off the mark. #MFCvCFC
13mins: Another great chance for Celtic.Forrest should score after being slid in by Brown but like Guidetti, drags it just past the post
11mins: All Celtic so far. Ball falls kindly for Forrest 20 yard out and he takes it on the volley. Flies not far wide of the left post
8mins: McManus is punished for a foul on Guidetti about 30 yards out on the right hand side. Johansen takes it and Carswell knocks it wide.
6mins: GOAL – Johansen pouncs on a slack back pass, nips around Twardzik and squares it to Stokes who taps in with ease
2mins: great chance already for Celtic. Guidetti is threaded through by Brown but fails to hit the target, dragging just wide from 15 yards
1min: Stokes delivers the corner deep and Ambrose heads well wide.
1min: Kerr takes no chances at the back post and nods it out for a corner #MFCvCFC
Law and Lasley kick the game off #COYW #MFCvCFC
Motherwell caretaker manager Kenny Black:
Celtic manager Ronnie Deila: