Despite an spirited performance, Motherwell lost 2-0 away to Celtic in the Ladbrokes Premiership this afternoon.
And while it was a stark contrast from Wednesday night’s bitterly disappointing performance, in the end, runway league-leaders Celtic were just too strong for the Steelmen.
Mark McGhee named three changes to the side which lost in midweek, with Scott McDonald returning from suspension and taking Elliott Frear’s place, Jack McMillan replacing the suspended Richard Tait and Craig Clay coming in for Lee Lucas.
However, the manager was forced in to further changes when Stevie Hammell pulled up in the pre-match warm-up, Joe Chalmers stepped in.
There was yet more chopping and changing required as Stephen McManus was forced off through injury after five minutes, Zak Jules was introduced to the action as the veteran defender limped off.
There were no chances in the opening 20 minutes, as Celtic were content to keep the ball and bed themselves in to the game, while Motherwell defended well and limited the home side to one real opportunity which came in the 25th minute.
Some intricate passing and neat movement from Celtic’s front four nearly led to the breakthrough, but James Forrest’s shot was palmed away by Samson, only as far as Henderson, who turned his effort wide of the mark.
Brendan Rodgers side eventually found the breakthrough though, when Moussa Dembele stroked a penalty past Samson following Zak Jules’ foul in the box.
The Steelmen responded well and had two terrific chances in quick succession, a deep cross in to the box from Chalmers found Louis Moult at the back post but the forward headed narrowly wide from close range.
Two minutes later, it looked like Pearson had levelled the score. The ball broke to the midfielder 12 yards out but his low effort was saved by Craig Gordon low to his right.
However, the positive response from Motherwell was cut short when Celtic doubled their lead five minutes before the break.
Forrest picked the ball up on the right flank, twisted and turned and fired a low shot past Samson despite all of Motherwell’s positive play.
The Fir Parkers regrouped and got off to a positive start in the second half, and some good passing play down the left flank led to a decent opportunity for McDonald, but the Aussie scuffed his shot a little and was denied by the offside flag anyway.
McGhee made his second change of the afternoon when he decided to replace Chris Cadden with Ryan Bowman, shifting the shape of the team to accommodate the three forwards and push for a way back in to the game.
Much like the first half, neither side created too much in the first 20 minutes and Celtic, looking most threatening through Scott Sinclair down the left flank, skewered a few good opportunities off target.
The Steelmen started to peg Celtic back for a good spell and put increasing pressure on Nir Bitton, who’s slack passes afforded the visiting Fir Parkers a couple of half chances to create opportunities deep in Celtic’s half.
A surging run forward from Zak Jules saw the defender nearly burst in to the box, but a last ditch tackle by Simunovic denied the young defender at the expense of a corner.
From the set piece, Gordon came off his line well to pluck it out the air.
McGhee’s men looked increasingly impressive in the final ten minutes, and a golden opportunity fell to Stephen Pearson following a set piece. The ex-Celtic man fired over from six yards but it was a tough one for the midfielder.
Zak Jules took the opportunity to maraud forward again and looked comfortable on the ball, but Celtic, who had taken their foot off the gas, were too deep and crowded out the ‘Well attack.
Celtic held on to their clean sheet and despite a late surge and impressive end to the match, Motherwell couldn’t find what would have been a deserved goal.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Celtic Park
FT: Celtic 2 – 0 Motherwell #CFCvMFC
90′ | 2-0
Two minutes added on.
83′ | 2-0
Celtic sub, McGregor on for Bitton.
82′ | 2-0
Another decent chance! Bowman flicks on a corner into the path of Pearson but he can’t get a good connection on it. Over the bar.
81′ | 2-0
Close! McDonald very nearly catches out Gordon at the front post with a sneaky cross/shot.
69′ | 2-0
Sinclair should have made it three but with all the goal to aim for, blazes it well over the bar.
60′ | 2-0
Good football again from Motherwell but this time Clay’s effort from 25 yards sails well over the bar.
57′ | 2-0
Free-kick to Celtic right on the edge of the box….Sinclair curls it over the bar.
56′ | 2-0
‘Well have the ball in a good area but Celtic steal it and break. Thankfully Dembele fires just wide of the post.
54′ | 2-0
Motherwell sub, Bowman on for Cadden
48′ | 2-0
Good start to the half from the Steelmen. Ball is knocked around well and slid into McDonald but he can’t test Gordon.
Celtic get the second 45 underway.
Half-time change for Celtic, Armstrong on for Henderson.
HT: Celtic 2 – 0 Motherwell #CFCvMFC
44′ | 2-0
Clay gets forward and into a good area but his cross/shot is plucked out the air by Gordon.
40′ | 2-0
Goal – despite a good spell, Forrest breaks down the right, twists and turns and fires low past Samson.
37′ | 1-0
What a chance! Ball breaks to Pearson 12 yards out but Gordon is equal to his low shot, palming it away to safety.
35′ | 1-0
Close!! Chalmers whips in a deep ball which Moult heads inches over the bar!
33′ | 1-0
Goal – Dembele steps up and sends Samson the wrong way.
32′ | 0-0
Moult tracks back but has to concede a corner….penalty to Celtic!
28′ | 0-0
Very few chances so far. Sinclair has a half-chance but scuffs it wide from a difficult angle.
25′ | 0-0
Corner Motherwell…..played short but Celtic defend it well.
24′ | 0-0
First chance of the game falls Celtic’s way. Forrest’s shot is beaten away then Henderson can’t convert from the rebound.
7′ | 0-0
Good little spell of passing there but McDonald is caught offside when on the end of a killer pass from Clay.
4′ | 0-0
Motherwell sub, McManus is forced off with that knock, so will be replaced by Jules.
Unfortunately we’re having some technical issues with mixlr so there will be no commentary this afternoon.
2′ | 0-0
McManus down injured, receiving treatment from physio @aileen_and
Lasley gets the game underway. COYW!!!
Motherwell manager Mark McGhee:
Celtic manager Brendan Rogers: