Craig Fowler gives his take after Celtic were held by ten-man Motherwell at Fir Park.
The urgency was missing again
Sometimes Celtic are terrific; sometimes they’re, well, what you saw on Sunday. There have been numerous explanations as to why this is, but it seems there is little rhyme or reason. They came into the match on seven days rest after defeating Rangers at Ibrox. They should have been pumped up and raring to go. Instead they lacked urgency. It’s happened before many times this season and it’ll happen again before it draws to a close. Some days they’re just flat; sometimes you just have to shrug.
Motherwell are incredibly determined
While Celtic were partially responsible for their failure to break the deadlock with some fairly ponderous passages of play, it has to be said that Motherwell defended terrifically throughout the 90 minutes. It wasn’t just the art of the last-ditch where they excelled either. The discipline they showed as a unit was flawless. The manner in which the likes of Curtis Main, Allan Campbell and Chris Cadden threw their entire being into every challenge was exemplary. And, even when Celtic did get through, they couldn’t find a way past Trevor Carson, undoubtedly one of the best goalkeepers in the league this season.
Celtic missed their full-backs
Without Kieran Tierney and Mikael Lustig, Brendan Rodgers opted to have Callum McGregor and Jack Hendry stationed on either side of the back four. McGregor has performed well in matches on the left-hand side of defence before, but he was largely absent from this contest, while Hendry couldn’t do much to impact matters further up the pitch either.
Furthermore, Motherwell were able to cause problems down the flanks while the game still had the full compliment of players. The hosts started in a 3-5-2 with Richard Tait and Elliott Frear operating as wing-backs. The issue came when the hosts were able to attack as neither James Forrest nor Odsonne Edouard, presumably on the instruction of their manager, followed the Motherwell wide-men. Any home player supporting from the midfield or attack was routinely able to construct a two-on-one against the full-back, which happened to Hendry numerous times in the opening half. The upside was Forrest getting plenty of joy against Frear in an attacking sense, which was negated when the hosts switched to a 4-4-1 after the red card. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened had Cedric Kipre stayed on the park.
Craig Thomson hates Motherwell
Ok, he probably doesn’t. However, the more rational “incredible coincidence” explanation won’t pacify angry Motherwell fans after they witnessed the official sending off one of their players for the fifth time this season. Perhaps there’s something in the claret and amber colour scheme which causes the experienced whistler to continually reach for red.
Just like Kipre’s ordering off in the League Cup final (also Thomson) this was an incredibly harsh decision. Unless it’s a blow to an opponent’s face, it should only be a red card in instances of violent conduct if the action is “excessive force or brutality”, neither of which applied to Kipre’s little kick out at Scott Brown after the Celtic captain had given a shove to his opponent.
Motherwell didn’t appeal the decision the last time. That was because, in that instance, the suspension won’t take effect until the first round of the Betfred Cup next season. Unless the club win the Scottish Cup and make it into Europe, the French centre-back will likely serve his suspension while the Steelmen face a lower league side, and it costs around £1,000 to lodge an appeal. Seeing as Stephen Robinson’s side are hosting Rangers in their next game and are six points behind Hearts with a game in hand in the hunt for a top six place, there’s absolutely no doubt they’ll appeal this time.
Rogic excelled again
A week after netting a terrific goal at Ibrox, the Australian continued his resurgence with a praiseworthy performance at Fir Park. It’s just a shame for him that he was about the only Celtic player who showed up in an attacking sense.
While his shooting prowess wasn’t quite there, his playmaking abilities sure were. He was at the centre of just about every threatening attack the visitors put together throughout the 90 minutes, even towards the end of the fixture when he was clearly tiring. Had any of his team-mates joined him on such a level then Celtic surely would have made the breakthrough.