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  • Celts pay the penalty as Motherwell win at Paradise

    Celts pay the penalty as Motherwell win at Paradise

    By: Martin Dalziel on 19 Dec, 2015 17:09

  • Scottish Premiership
    Celtic Park
    Saturday, December 19, 2015

    (Bitton 49)

    (Moult 53, 59 [pen])

    CELTIC rounded off their home fixtures of 2015 with a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Motherwell. After a lacklustre first-half, the game was decided within a frantic 15 minutes in the second period when the Bhoys took the lead before being pegged back quickly by Mark McGhee’s men.

    Nir Bitton’s strike took a deflection to go beyond Conor Ripley to open the scoring shortly after the interval but Louis Moult soon levelled the game with a tap-in from Marvin Johnson’s cross.

    Disaster then struck as Jozo Simunovic was penalised for a foul on Scott McDonald just inside the box, with Moult confidently stroking home from the spot.

    Celtic battered the Motherwell box in a bid to get back into the game but some resolute defending from the Lanarkshire side earned the Steelmen a valuable three points and consigned Ronny Deila’s side to defeat.

    There were three changes made to the Celtic team, with Kris Commons, Bitton and Kieran Tierney all returning to the starting line-up following the 3-0 victory over St Johnstone last weekend.

    Commons was the most notable inclusion following his recovery from injury as he continues his hunt for 100 goals for the champions, but the game also heralded a landmark moment for Hoops keeper Craig Gordon, who started his 50th league match between the sticks for the Bhoys.

    Both teams played some neat football in the opening stages despite the swirling wind and a lunging challenge from former Celt Stephen McManus on Commons brought the first sight of goal for the Bhoys, but Bitton’s curling effort from the set-piece 25 yards out was well off target.

    The midfielder then brought out the first save of the game from Conor Ripley with a stinging volley, which the keeper parried to the feet of Nadir Ciftci but the striker was flagged offside as he slotted the ball into the empty net.

    Callum McGregor’s vision in midfield combined with Tom Rogic’s good runs were starting to open up the Steelmen but Mark McGhee’s side defended well and still looked threatening on the break, with Simunovic forced to hook Johnson’s low cross out from the six-yard box after a quick break from the visitors on the half-hour mark.

    The home side were enjoying all the possession but there was a lack of penetration from the champions as Motherwell sat deep, forcing Celtic to show patience with the game level at half-time.

    That changed almost instantly after the restart when Celtic took the lead after Motherwell squandered the chance to do it themselves seconds before.

    The visitors switched Liam Grimshaw with Lionel Ainsworth at half-time and the winger forced the ball away from Tierney deep in Celtic territory, but he elected to chip the onrushing Gordon and his effort found the roof of the net.

    Ronny Deila's team then went straight up the pitch and took the lead with Bitton’s deflected shot squirming past the helpless Ripley.

    The strike sparked life into the match but Motherwell were soon back level after Moult converted Johnson’s low cross from the left just minutes after going behind.

    The match was then turned on its head when Simunovic caught Scott McDonald in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Moult stepped up and stroked the ball calmly down the middle of the goal to put Motherwell 2-1 up.

    The Celts sought an instant reply but almost went further behind when Dedryck Boyata stumbled in the box under pressure from McDonald, allowing the striker to work the ball free but Gordon came off his line quickly to block.

    The Steelmen kept up the pressure but Ronny Deila made two changes with Scott Allan replacing James Forrest and Carlton Cole coming on for Rogic to make his home debut.

    The Bhoys flooded forward in search of the equaliser as the visitors retreated to their 18-yard box but they struggled to prise open the Motherwell defence, despite bombarding the Lanarkshire team with crosses from wide and deep.

    The champions swarmed in and around the Motherwell penalty box as crosses rained down from Tierney, but it was always a visiting defender who managed to get a head on it to clear the danger and the match finished in a frustrating defeat.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Simunovic, Tierney; Bitton, McGregor; Commons, Rogic (Cole 74), Forrest (Allan 68); Ciftci.
    Not used: Fasan, Ambrose, Izaguirre, Johansen, Armstrong,

    MOTHERWELL (4-4-2) Ripley; Hammell, McManus (Laing 77), Hall, Law; Grimshaw (Ainsworth 46, Watt 81), Pearson, Johnson, Lasley; Moult, McDonald.
    Not used: Samson, Clarkson, Thomas, McFadden,

    Website man of the match: Callum McGregor

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