Phil McGhee at Celtic Park
Two second half goals from Loius Moult capped a fabulous display by Motherwell as they upset the long odds for a thoroughly deserved win over league leaders Celtic in Glasgow.
And for Mark McGhee it was a triumphant return to the East End overseeing ‘Well’s first win at Parkhead since 2008 – when he was also the manager.
While Moult might grab the headlines as he took his goal tally to 11 for the season, there were a host of star performers in claret and amber, from back to front.
The ‘Well boss stood by the same eleven which beat Dundee last week which meant 18 year-old Ben Hall retaining his place alongside Stephen McManus at the heart of the ‘Well defence.
After signing on at Fir Park for a third time, James McFadden earned a place on the bench.
The Steelmen made a positive start to the game and Craig Gordon had a couple of early catches as the play buzzed about his box.
As the half progressed Celtic began to dominate possession, but the hard working ‘Well players closed down their opponents giving them few openings around the visitor’s box.
Indeed, Conor Ripley had little involvement until the 21st minute when he parried Nir Bitton’s powerful drive into the path of Nadir Çiftçi who was several yards offside when he popped the ball into an open goal.
Five minutes later the ‘Well ‘keeper was at full stretch to hold Tomas Rogic’s low shot across goal.
Motherwell still had the odd foray forward and Liam Grimshaw’s threaded pass found Scott McDonald and although he was flagged offside his turn and shot forced a good save from Gordon.
Although the Parkhead men had a few speculative shots which drifted off target the best chance of the half came on the 30 minute mark.
Loius Moult did well to release Johnston and after weaving inside Dedryck Boyata he fired his shot across Gordon’s goalmouth but before McDonald could tap it home Jozo Šimunović hoisted the ball over his own cross bar.
If the goalmouth action was scarce in the first half, the second was action packed.
Within a minute Kris Common’s corner found James Forrest and his downward header forced Ripley into an early save. Minutes later again from Common’s corner Boyata’s header was net bound until Keith Lasley booted it off the line.
Play immediately raced to the other end of the park and Lionel Ainsworth, on for Grimshaw at the interval, found himself clean through on goal. But as Gordon raced from his line the ‘Well sub elected to lob the ‘keeper and the ball dropped agonisingly inches over the bar and onto the roof of the net.
And typically, within minutes, the Fir Parkers paid for that miss in cruel fashion as they fell behind. Bitton was given time at the edge of the box but his shot was aimed directly at Ripley until a deflection off Hammell carried the ball beyond the ‘keeper for the opening goal.
That might have been enough to end ‘Well’s resolve but two goals in seven minutes turned the game.
Once again Johnson was released down the left by McDonald and this time when he drilled the ball across the goal face, Moult stepped into guide it home to make it 1-1.
The travelling fans in that corner of the ground had hardly stopped celebrating that goal when ‘Well added a second. McDonald, who had unsettled the Celtic defence all afternoon, drew a rash tackle from Šimunović inside the box and referee Bobby Madden had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot.
Moult looked equally convincing as he waited for Gordon to move before smacking the spot kick down the middle of the goal to put ‘Well in front.
Celtic had some half chances to draw level, mostly from set pieces but Mickael Lustig’s header was blocked on a packed goal line before Common’s header was comfortably saved by Ripley.
With 15 minutes remaining the ‘Well boss was forced to re-arrange his central defence when a clash of heads left Stephen McManus concussed and Louis Laing coming on to take his place alongside Hall.
Incredibly as the new pairing waited to be tested, Motherwell passed up the chance to wrap up the points.
In another lightening break McDonald sent Ainsworth free on the right and when he passed the ball across the box Johnson had time to set himself up before hammering his left foot shot against Gordon’s legs.
After a telling second half contribution Ainsworth made way for Luke Watt for the final 10minutes.
In the end, though, as Celtic hoisted the ball into the box the ‘Well back five and Ripley stoutly protected their lead for a fantastic win and round off the year with memorable victories at Celtic Park and Ibrox.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at Celtic Park
Celtic 1 – 2 Motherwell
89′ | 1-2
4 minutes added on…..
81′ | 1-2
Final Motherwell sub, Ainsworth off for Luke Watt.
80′ | 1-2
What a chance to make it 3 as Ainsworth squares it to Johnson but Gordon makes a fine save to deny him!
78′ | 1-2
Yellow card for Biton as he hacks down McDonald as he broke clear.
76′ | 1-2
Motherwell sub, McManus off after a head knock. Looked a bad one and he wanted to play on but can’t take the chance. Laing on.
74′ | 1-2
Celtic sub, Rogic off for Cole.
67′ | 1-2
Celtic sub, Allan on for Forrest.
65′ | 1-2
Great chance for 3 as again Boyata makes a meal of it allowing McDonald in to shoot. From the save, Moult fires just over the bar!
59′ | 1-2
Moult sends Gordon the wrong way to make it 2-1 to The Steelmen!!!!
Penalty to Motherwell!!!
56′ | 1-1
Baffling decision there as McDonald superbly dispossesses Boyata but Madden gives Celtic a free-kick
52′ | 1-1
@louismoult pokes home Johnson’s superb cross at the back post. 1-1!!
49′ | 1-0
Unbelievable. Celtic break clear and Biton’s tame shot takes a huge deflection and goes into the net. 1-0 to Celtic.
48′ | 0-0
Should have been the opener as Ainsworth breaks clear 1v1 with Gordon but he chips it over the bar!
Second half is underway….
One change at the interval, Grimshaw makes way for Ainsworth
HT: Celtic 0 – 0 Motherwell
39′ | 0-0
Danger as Forrest drifts in from the right but fortunately his shot with the outside of his boot goes wide of the far post.
31′ | 0-0
Great chance there as Johnson gets the better of Boyata but his cut-back into the danger area has no takers!
25′ | 0-0
Bit of a left off there as Celtic break clear but from a tight angle Rogic opts to shoot, much to the relief of Ripley who saves
23′ | 0-0
Johnson puts the burners on and eases past Lustig but his final ball into the box is too close to Gordon, who gathers
19′ | 0-0
Commons has the ball in the net but the linesman’s flag goes up, correctly.
12′ | 0-0
Hammell fires in a low corner which is a little too awkward for Johnson as he scuffs his shot into the Celtic defence.
….Curled harmlessly over the bar by Rogic.
10′ | 0-0
Sturdy challenge on Commons by McManus gives Celtic a free-kick in a decent area about 25 yards from goal….
1′ | 0-0
First venture up the park for the Steelmen but Law’s deep cross is gathered safely by Gordon.
Pearson and Lasley get the game underway #COYW!!!
Out come the teams……Motherwell in their full claret away kit..
Motherwell manager Mark McGhee:
“I’m trying to keep a little bit of a lid on it as it’s just one result. It’s a great result, but we’ve got a long way to go.
“It was a great performance today and I think we thoroughly deserved to win.
“It’s one of a sequence of three performances now and we are starting to see a bit of consistency.”
Celtic manager Ronny Deila:
“A lot of things disappointed me today. We didn’t play quickly enough in the first half, we were too narrow and couldn’t open them.
“I think we started the second half well, got our goal, created a couple more chances, then we played way too open and then you get punished by the counter attacks.
“You have to work really hard defensively and be very compact and we have been that in a lot of games domestically. But today we were too open and you give the opponent space to play in and get punished in the end
“Overall, a disappointing day, a bad day at work and in the end we deserved to lose.”