Celtic edge Motherwell as inconclusive VAR call rules out Jota goal of the month contender

Ange Postecoglou might not wish to cultivate a reputation as the Tinkerman but such a policy appears to be working for him. Domestically at least, his Celtic side can do wrong at present whoever is wearing the hoops.

Celtic's Kyogo Furuhashi opens the scoring against Motherwell. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Celtic's Kyogo Furuhashi opens the scoring against Motherwell. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Celtic's Kyogo Furuhashi opens the scoring against Motherwell. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Having made 50 changes to his starting XI in the previous 11 outings, the manager made another six here following Saturday’s 4-2 victory over Dundee United.

It’s doing little to disrupt momentum although there might have been a greater degree of comfort had Jota’s potential goal of the month contender in the second half not been ruled out for offside after a VAR check. The replays were far from conclusive.

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Celtic did go two goals ahead when a well-worked goal from two substitutes saw the fleet-footed Daizen Maeda scurry on to a David Turnbull pass and sweep home with six minutes left. Motherwell responded almost immediately as Ross Tierney volleyed in Matt Penney’s cross. The remaining nine or so minutes suddenly became very interesting. “There will be 50 minutes of time added on,” the Fir Park Tannoy man announced wishfully.

Carl Starfelt, making his first league start since the 4-0 victory over Rangers in September, Greg Taylor, Josip Juranovic, Aaron Mooy, Liel Abada and Kyogo Furuhashi all came into the team. Although it was tighter, far tighter, than last month’s 4-0 win the Premier Sports Cup, Postecoglou avoided any mishap after once again shuffling his pack.

This time next week Celtic will be in Sydney. They have the comfort of knowing that they will be at least seven points clear of Rangers at the top if they can win against Ross County on Saturday.

As well as being Celtic’s eighth successive domestic win, this was their 15th in a row against Motherwell.

Kyogo Furuhashi opened the scoring after 15 minutes after superb persistence from Matt O’Riley saw the Denmark international win the ball back from Callum Slattery after the Motherwell midfielder had initially dispossessed him. Again, it was the kind of full-blooded tackle that the dread hand of VAR might have wanted to have a say in. However, the check did not find fault with either the build-up or the execution, with Kyogo tapping in from a close range for his 11th goal of the season.

It did not signal a deluge and neither had it been the result of completely one-way traffic. Reo Hatate was guilty of sloppiness in midfield and was dispossessed by Stephen O’Donnell, who played in Kevin van Veen.

The striker rounded Joe Hart but pushed the ball too far wide. He could only bash his shot from a tight angle.

Motherwell endured more disappointment after 21 minutes when Bevis Mugabi limped off after blocking a Mooy effort. He was replaced by Sondre Solholm.

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Slattery, spotting Hart was far out of his area, sought to make amends for his earlier error but his effort from well inside his own half drifted harmlessly wide.

The ambition had to be applauded – and was by many Motherwell fans in the main stand.

They were slightly less appreciative of Louis Moult’s continued residency on the bench, particularly since Van Veen, at half-time, and then Stuart McKinstry had departed, to be replaced by Connor Shields and Josh Morris respectively.

Moult did appear with half an hour left and came close with a glancing downward header that bounced up over the bar.



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