After a pulsating lunchtime match to get the weekend’s Scottish Premiership fixtures underway, we look at five things to take from Celtic’s dramatic victory at Fir Park.
It took a special goal to end Craig Gordon’s clean sheet run
Much like when Fraser Forster set the Premiership clean sheet record back in the 2013/14 season, it took a special goal to end Craig Gordon’s run of eight consecutive domestic clean sheets.
On that evening back in February 2014, it took a stunning, long-range effort from Jonny Hayes to beat the imposing Forster in the Celtic goal.
Similarly, Louis Moult’s delightful, first-time volley after running onto Stephen McManus’ high through ball was a fitting way to end Celtic’s run of clean sheets.
Chris Cadden is vital to the Motherwell midfield
After a series of impressive displays last season, a lot was expected of Chris Cadden over the course of this campaign. And he has so far delivered.
Asked to play wide rather than in his preferred central position, Cadden provides an incredible ability to drive up the park with the ball to gain territory and never shirks his defensive responsibilities. He was one of the reasons Mark McGhee’s men won the midfield battle early on and he was one of the reasons why Rodgers decided to replace Cadden’s direct opponent, Emilio Izaguirre, and to change system.
As soon as Cadden departed due to injury in the second half, Celtic created a goal from the side of the pitch he was playing. In fairness, though, his replacement, Lionel Ainsworth, did instantly equalise.
Callum McGregor made the difference
Even though Celtic took another step backwards by going 2-0 shortly after his introduction, Callum McGregor definitely made the difference in the Celtic midfield.
When his side were in possession, which was for large periods of the match, he was effective in carrying the ball forward and just as effective buzzing around the edge of the box without the ball. For his goal, Celtic’s first of the match, he played a wonderful one-two with Stuart Armstrong before accurately dispatching the ball past Craig Samson.
His introduction also saw Rodgers to push Rogic forward to play as a second striker and freed up Armstrong to run riot in a man-of-the-match performance.
Defending the 18 yard line versus Celtic is almost impossible
Motherwell’s success early in the match came from pressing the Celtic backline, a good example being their second goal when young Ross MacLean robbed Mikael Lustig before whipping in an inch-perfect cross for Moult.
When Celtic emerged from the break in much better shape, with a greater flow and tempo to their play, they soon pulled one back and the Motherwell mentality changed.
They began to retreat, but even with nine or ten outfield players behind the ball, Celtic still managed to probe patiently for openings and create lots of chances, be it from neat passing play or dropping a shoulder to create half a yard.
Brendan Rodgers isn’t afraid to just go for it
Versus Astana in the Champions League qualifiers, Rodgers switched to two strikers at a time when most managers would have shut up shop and protected the slim lead they had. In the end they extended their advantage which proved vital in their progression to the group stage.
In this match, he abandoned the notion of full-backs midway through the first half. Already missing Kieran Tierney, he replaced Emilio Izaguirre with McGregor, moved Lustig in one and placed two wingers – James Forrest and Patrick Roberts – in the wingback roles.
They left with the three points but the third goal they conceded, which saw Ainsworth left unmarked at the back post, exemplified the gung-ho nature of the Celtic shape at that point.