Motherwell 1-2 Celtic reaction: Mentality revealed, cutting edge concerns, midfield flatness, player ratings

Luis Palma celebrates after scoring Celtic's opener against Motherwell. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)Luis Palma celebrates after scoring Celtic's opener against Motherwell. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Luis Palma celebrates after scoring Celtic's opener against Motherwell. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
A game that offered so little for so long ended in drama at Fir Park as Matt O’Riley 97th minute winner gave Celtic all three points against a resolute Motherwell side.

It was a stay of execution for Brendan Rodgers’ side who looked certain to drop points after Blair Spittal had beaten Scott Bain with a raking effort from the edge of the box – a goal that cancelled out Luis Palma’s 87th minute effort that looked to have been a cross that somehow ended up in the back of the net.

Celtic’s mentality revealed

As they headed into the season there was a pedestrian feeling about Celtic’s performances. When Spittal netted in the 95th minute – and the board showed only five minutes would be added – there was an overwhelming feeling within Fir Park that Motherwell had done enough to take the point. It revealed a bit of steel in Rodgers’ side that they found the resilience to dig out the win with O’Riley’s calm finish prompting wild celebrations – not all welcome – from the Celtic support. O'Riley has now netted more goals than he did in the entirity of last season.

Where is Celtic’s cutting edge?

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Underneath the drama of the win and the circumstances with how it came about, it was a fairly inauspicious game for Celtic as they prepare to go into Wednesday’s Champions League game against Lazio at Celtic Park. They dominated large spells and had ample pressure but toiled to break down what was a robust Motherwell side but, for a team who have scored more domestic goals than anyone else so far in the cinch Premiership, they were toothless up front.

Bain, in for the suspended Joe Hart with the keeper forced into one block with his legs after Harry Paton had latched onto a quick free-kick, a moment that irked Rodgers as he urged his side to stay alert. It is unlikely that Lazio would facilitate such a let off. Motherwell did have the ball in Celtic’s net – VAR ruled it out for a foul on Bain – before Spittal found a way past him.

Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley need to be on song on Wednesday

The contractual news on Friday evening and Saturday morning that Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley had signed new contracts inoculates the club should there be any serious advances for either player in January or next summer.

Both are players who harbour ambitions of a bigger stage but they will appreciate the opportunity that the Champions League stage affords. Hatate, who took a hefty knock to the face after feeling the force of Callum Slattery’s boot, has shown in tantalising glimpses the elegance and composure he can offer Celtic’s midfield while O’Riley has been arguably the most consistent performer this term.

Getting both fine tuned for the visit of the Italians would help Celtic find something to sing about in a tournament that has largely been a sobering environment for them to operate in across recent campaigns. However, there was a flatness about them against Motherwell for long periods – albeit that O’Riley popped up to pay back some of that new deal.

Celtic will hope that the disco lights of Celtic Park and the Champions League theme ensures the adrenalin that was evident in the final stages at Fir Park is evident on Wednesday.

Motherwell: Kelly 6 – McGinn 6, Mugabi 6, Casey 6 – O’Donnell 6 (Souare 70 5), Miller 7 (Wilkinson 89), Paton, Spencer 6 – Slattery 6 (Zdravkovski 89), Bair 6 (Shaw 70 5), Spittal 6. Subs: Oxborough, Gent, Blaney, L Ross, M Ross, Wilkinson

Celtic: Bain 6 – Johnston 6, Lagerbielke 6 (Phillips 62, 5), Scales 6, Taylor 7 – O’Riley 8, McGregor 6, Hatate 6 (Turnbull 76) – Yang 6 (Forrest 46, 5), Furuhashi 5 (oh 76), Maeda 5 (Palma 77). Subs: Siegrist, Holm, Iwata, Ralston

Referee: Willie Collum



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