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  • Ciftci on target as Celtic go top

    Ciftci on target as Celtic go top

    By: Mark Henderson on 17 Oct, 2015 14:08

  • Scottish Premiership
    Fir Park, Motherwell
    Saturday, October 17, 2015


    (Ciftci 15)

    NADIR Ciftci’s first-half goal was enough to seal a 1-0 victory over Motherwell at Fir Park and send Celtic top of the table for the first time since the end of August.

    The Turkish striker coolly converted from the rebound after Kris Commons’ volley had been parried by goalkeeper Connor Ripley.

    And, despite not adding to their tally throughout the remainder of the contest, the Hoops never looked in danger of relinquishing their lead, with Craig Gordon a virtual spectator.

    Having fully recovered from injury, Stuart Armstrong returned to the Celtic starting XI for the first time since the defeat to Malmo in Sweden as Ronny Deila made three changes to the team that defeated Hamilton before the international break.

    Deployed on the left an attacking midfield triumvirate, the 23-year-old came into the side at the expense of James Forrest who had picked up a knock on international duty.

    Leigh Griffiths had also sustained an injury while representing Scotland but he had recovered sufficiently to take a place on the bench, with Ciftci taking his place as the lone striker. Efe Ambrose replaced Saidy Janko at right-back.

    Celtic took control from the kick off, dominating possession and keeping the home side camped deep in their own territory. Ciftci had a shot from 20 yards deflected wide in the fourth minute, before Armstrong lashed wide after darting inside from the left as the Hoops’ quick-passing game started to pay dividends.

    Armstrong had looked lively on his return, linking up effectively with the typically adventurous Emilio Izaguirre down the left and it was through this route that the first goal arrived on the quarter-hour mark.

    After driving down the left, Armstrong found Izaguirre haring forward on another attacking sortie. The Honduran’s cross was met by Commons and, although goalkeeper Connor Ripley managed to block his volley, Ciftci was on hand to calmly apply the finish from the rebound.

    Aside from a Stephen Pearson cross from the left, dealt with ably by a combination of Dedryck Boyata and Nir Bitton, it was one-way traffic as Celtic probed patiently for further opportunities.

    A quickly-taken free-kick from Commons from 30 yards almost caught out Ripley, but the keeper managed to get his hands to the shot. Bitton also blasted over when Ambrose’s cutback was only partially cleared.

    As half-time approached, the Steelemen’s defence was stretched to breaking point as the Hoops maintained their offensive. Ciftci saw a shot blocked and Tom Rogic shot over following a sweeping move down the left involving Bitton and Armstrong.

    After Rogic was fouled by Stephen McManus 22 yards from goal, Commons struck the bar from the resultant free-kick with Ripley beaten. Moments later, the Lanarkshire side were forced into some desperate defending from Ambrose’s inswinging cross after they had been cut open by another swift interchange of passes.   

    Boyata headed inches wide of the far post from Blackett’s searching cross and Commons and Scott Brown had further efforts on goal before a one-side half concluded.

    There was little deviation in the pattern of play after the restart as Celtic pressed on in search of the security of a second goal.

    Izaguirre had the first sight of goal in front of the massed ranks of travelling supporters, but he couldn’t keep his first-time effort from an acute angle on target after Commons has located him with a delightful pass.

    Celtic then had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Alan Muir when Brown went down in the box under a challenge after attempting to reach Commons’ return pass.

    Commons steered a shot wide from Ciftci’s knockdown, before the Hoops had another penalty plea waved away by the officials as Commons header from the byline appeared to strike the hand of a Motherwell defender.

    The home side were offering more going forward than the first period but nothing substantial. An instinctive volley from defender Kieran Kennedy, after the ball had been headed back into the mix from a corner, was their only serious attempt on goal, though Celtic’s slender advantage continued to provide them with hope.

    However, as both teams made a series of substitutions, it was the Ronny Deila’s men who finished on top, with Commons, Callum McGregor and Griffiths all coming close with late efforts.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Ambrose, Boyata, Blackett, Izaguirre; Brown, Bitton, Commons, Rogic, Armstrong (Mackay-Steven 66); Ciftci (Griffiths 60)
    Not Used: Bailly, Tierney, Lustig, McGregor, Stokes

    MOTHERWELL (4-1-4-1) Ripley; Law, Kennedy, McManus, Chalmers; Laing; Johnson (Thomas 72), Grimshaw, Pearson, Moult (Ainsworth 53); Fletcher (McDonald 66)
    Not Used: Samson, Lasley, Robinson, Leitch, Thomas

    Website Man of the Match: Kris Commons

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