Suited and booted in their cup final get-ups, Motherwell were dressed for the occasion but as soon as Celtic laid bare their own ambitions, with a dominant first-half performance, there was no fashioning out the desired outcome.
“It didn’t go the way we imagined,” admitted Fir Park midfielder Chris Cadden. “It was a tough result. I thought we lost the game in the first half. That gave us too much to do in the second half.
“We showed them too much respect in the first half. Obviously, they’re a good team, they’ve spent a lot of money, they’ve got guys on good money as well and they deserve some amount of respect.
“But that’s not really our game – showing people respect –we’ve got to get into people’s faces and we didn’t do that first half. We did it more second half, but by then it was too late.”
Motherwell are a team who have been bullish in their assertion that they will approach games in their own way, using their physicality and their drive to intimidate opponents and barge their way to goal. They came close to converting that into something tangible against yesterday’s opponents earlier in the season but sharp, focused and with the bit between their teeth, Celtic were not going to let them dictate matters in the final, not when they had a second successive treble on the line.
“They won the league pretty comfortably so they’ve been good all season,” conceded Cadden. “But I don’t think them going for the double-treble was a big factor. They didn’t want it more than us. You can see our boys, we’re gutted for the fans, for everybody. We wanted it as well, just as much as them.”
But, just as much is not good enough, not when the opposition have more quality. Celtic refused to dally on the ball long enough to let their challengers get in their faces and while Motherwell arrived at Hampden ready to rumble, by the time half an hour had lapsed and Celtic had eased to their two-goal lead, the towel could have been thrown in.
“Maybe if you’re playing somebody else in the league those sort of chances don’t go in,” said Cadden. “But Celtic punish you. If you give them a yard they’ll put it in the net, which they did.”
They received a rocket from manager Stephen Robinson at half-time and the Motherwell fans continued to get behind their team but, the draws they had manufactured earlier in the campaign against Celtic seemed a forlorn dream, as too many of the guys in claret and amber were already down and out.
“[The manager] said ‘there’s 45 minutes left of the season, you’ve got to go and leave it all on the pitch, no regrets’. He told us if we end up getting beat, then we get beat, but run your socks off and see what happens.”