Don't write off Celtic just yet as new hero emerges in another title race late show

Idah and his fellow substitutes dig champions out of huge hole against Motherwell

Don’t write Celtic off just yet in this title race. Not by a long way. They showed the ultimate trait of champions by netting twice in stoppage time to clinch a hugely important 3-1 win over Motherwell at Fir Park.

Level with the Steelmen going into six minutes of stoppage time, boy did Celtic needed a winner. Rangers had thumped Hearts 5-0 a day earlier to move five points clear at the top of the Premiership. Eroding that lead by a point would not do. Momentum is with the Ibrox club. But just like he did earlier this month, up stepped Adam Idah, the on-loan Norwich striker who already has a knack of scoring late goals. His penalty winner floored Hibs and he slid home on 94 minutes here to deliver the sucker punch to a resolute Motherwell.

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Idah came on as a half-time substitute with Celtic, at that point a goal down and toiling for inspiration in attack, and within six minutes he made in impact with a fine header to level. His power and strength caused Motherwell far more problems than Kyogo Furuhashi did. The Japanese appeared to hurt his shoulder and was replaced by the Irishman at the break. The Japanese may play second fiddle to Idah at this rate.

Celtic’s Adam Idah celebrates after scoring to make it 2-1 against Motherwell.Celtic’s Adam Idah celebrates after scoring to make it 2-1 against Motherwell.
Celtic’s Adam Idah celebrates after scoring to make it 2-1 against Motherwell.

Idah’s timing and composure to slot home a low Alistair Johnston cross in stoppage time sent the previously tense and nervous Celtic fans behind the goal totally tonto. There was still time for Luis Palma to net a precise low delivery from Yang Hjun-jun two minutes later to add gloss to the scoreline. Goal difference could be crucial in this bid for the championship. With 11 league games left – of which two are Old Firm derbies – Rangers lead by two points and have superior goal difference by six.

Celtic can thank their substitutes for overcoming Motherwell. Idah, Yang, Palma and Cameron Carter-Vickers all came on in the second half and immediately enhanced Celtic. Furuhashi blew Celtic’s best chance of the first half when firing straight at Liam Kelly after a nice Matt O’Riley pass, although his compatriot Daizen Maeda managed to trump that by putting a diving header wide from close range later in the match. Nicolas Kuhn did nothing to influence proceedings on the left wing. The German looked lost in Lanarkshire. Carter-Vickers, on late for Maik Nawrocki, immediately added more composure to a previously wobbly Celtic defence.

Celtic were bang average in the first half, sloppy with their passing. Motherwell took the lead on 42 minutes when Blair Spittal deliciously curled home following neat play from the impressive 17-year-old midfielder Lennon Miller. The hosts, who remain in ninth place, put a lot into this match and both strikers, Theo Bair and Jack Vale, were pests to Celtic. But they were forced so deep by Celtic and could not batten down the hatches sufficiently and stay concentrated under incessant pressure. Just like the last time Celtic came to Fir Park, in September last year, they were undone in added-on time.

What this win will do for Celtic now remains to be seen. Their title credentials and ability to handle pressure has been questioned scrupulously. Yet that is nine wins and two draws in 11 games. For now it is about keeping pace with Rangers. Dundee are up next, at home on Wednesday. Celtic can return to Parkhead with a spring in their step, for their second-half performance was a reminder of what they can do, and what they can achieve.