Celtic midfielder Stefan Johansen might not like the way Motherwell play, but he believes they are capable of securing second-place ahead of Aberdeen. John Sutton’s late equaliser on Saturday secured a point for Motherwell against the champions and keeps them within three points of Aberdeen.
On his first visit to Fir Park, Johansen learned why Celtic have often experienced problems on trips to the stadium. “Motherwell is a good team and all respect to them,” he said. “They didn’t give up and of course they were leading 2-0 at one stage. We were down but came back.
“I still think we should’ve won,” he added, with substitute Leigh Griffiths scoring with just five minutes left to put Celtic ahead. “I don’t like the way they [Motherwell] play, I prefer how we play. But we didn’t do it for 90 minutes. I believe if we’d done so then we would’ve won the game.”
“I think Motherwell and Aberdeen are two good teams,” Johansen added. “I believe it [second place] will be definitely come from one of those two. But then Dundee United are also very good. I rate them the three best other teams. It will be a close race.”
Johansen qualified the “don’t like the way they play” comment by explaining that he thought the hosts should have shown more ambition since they were playing at home. “They are at their home ground and they have 11 guys 20, 30 metres back,” he said. That’s not my type of football, I don’t like that. But all credit to them. They succeeded with that against us. I know it’s difficult to play against Celtic. But we just need to handle it and we didn’t do it well for 90 minutes. It was only for 45 and that is not enough for Celtic.”
Johansen admitted manager Neil Lennon had taken the players to task at half-time and then thrown them back out several minutes early. “The manager made things clear to us at half-time,” he smiled. “We all knew we hadn’t played well in the first-half and it was just a case of getting together and start doing things better in the second-half. We did that.”
Motherwell striker Henri Anier complained about the lack of plaudits being granted to his side, despite another strong season. “Maybe we are a little bit undervalued,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot about Aberdeen and Dundee United, but not really a lot about us. That could be a good thing, to keep things quiet and just show what we can do by where we finish at the end of the season. I think that could well be second. I’m still confident we can finish second.”
“The manager [Stuart McCall] has done a brilliant job, with [assistant] Kenny Black and the board,” he added. “A lot of important players left in the summer, but the manager got new players and we have done well. Would he be in contention for manager of the year awards? Definitely.”
Anier also singled out strike partner Sutton, who now has 22 goals for the season after scoring twice on Saturday. “John Sutton should be regarded one of the best in the country,” he said. “Both of us have a chemistry and he deserves to be around the player of the year awards with his scoring a lot of goals.”
Anier suggested he could even do a good job for Celtic, who finished with four five forwards on the park on Saturday. “Every striker could do well for Celtic because you have a good team behind you and John could do well for them, too,” said the Estonian. “John is so consistent and he’s a great guy on and off the pitch. He’s a great character.”