Motherwell 2-5 Celtic
What a strange game. It started badly and it ended badly,but in the seventy-odd minutes inbetween,we scored an impressive five away goals as the midfield and front line clicked into place.
And they had to-those five goals were from the only five shots we had on target!
We lined up with Scott Bain in goal,and a central defensive pairing of Christophe Jullien and Nir Bitton. Kris Ajer was at right back and Boli left back. After they had all been introduced to each other,they settled down to give Motherwell a goal of a start,make a game of it. I thought Bain should have done better with a shot from distance and seemed a bit slow to get down to it,but the defence certainly did him no favours.
Twelve minutes gone,goal down,game on. I can tell you the rest of the team now,because they had been invisible until then. Scott Brown,Callum McGregor,Ollie Ntcham in the middle with Lewis Morgan and James Forrest on the flanks,Leigh Griffiths leading the line. But it was Ajer who took the game by the scruff of the neck,picking up the ball deep in his own half and playing it on to Forrest. James took a few touches to get past two opponents and then looked up to see who was available for the pass. He must have been as astonished as we were to see Kris sprinting past him in a blond Big Roy charge up the pitch!
Needing no further invitation,he threaded the ball nicely through for Kris to run onto at the edge of the box. He didn’t break stride,just coolly slotted it past the onrushing keeper for the equaliser.
He obviously needed a breather after that,and indeed the whole game stuttered on for twenty five minutes without much ado. We were looking sharp,and Ollie in particular was coming onto a game. But Motherwell were in a spoiling mood,and the referee,despite five yellow cards eventually,was happy to allow it. Having said that,unlike some,he awarded the free kicks when merited.
And it was from one that we went in front-and never looked back,if I’m honest. Left side,about 25 yards out. The keeper lined the wall up to cover his right post while he stood towards the middle of his goal. Griff just planted it low and hard into the unguarded corner,as accurate a strike as you could wish for. And it was half time.
We came out in the second half like men possessed,and simply battered Motherwell into submission. How it took twenty minutes to score the third beats me-it was like The Alamo out there. Eventually,Boli took a hand,playing a neat one-two with Morgan before cutting it back to Forrest. His route to goal was blocked by about five defenders,but he jinked this way and that before stroking it with his left foot into the far corner. Game over,really.
His reward was an early shot at the bubble bath,joining Griff who had been taken off just prior to the goal. Neil clearly has his mind fixed on midweek. Ryan Christie-new haircut anaw-joined Eddy as the battering continued. And Ollie simply continued his rehabilitation,a Man of the Match contribution which has been long overdue. The fourth goal was a peach,with a strong Gallic feel to it. Boli-he speaks French,so that will do for the Gallic connection!-got the ball wide on the left,fed it to Ollie on the same wing. He shrugged off a few ineffectual challenges before playing the sweetest of passes across the box with the outside of his foot. One mistimed interception later and a sublime first touch by Eddy and he’d fired it low to the keeper’s right. He didn’t even move,an excellent finish.
This time it was Ollie’s turn for the early bath,though I would imagine he uses carbolic,if not a wire brush and Dettol. He could have bathed in champagne for all I cared yesterday,and if he can replicate that performance on a regular basis,we will have the player we all know him to be.
As the Motherwell corner refused to throw in the towel,we kept battering them. Four became five when Eddy tried a twinkletoes run through their penalty area,only to be brought down as he was about to shoot. A clear penalty. Up stepped Ryan,who thrashed it into the top corner. Five goals,the perfect riposte to the doubters,and the perfect way to prevent a shaky defence causing problems.
Just as well,really. Deep into injury time,our defence completely switched off and Motherwell couldn’t believe their luck as they got a consolation. It was like a slow motion car crash,this one. So many chances to clear it. I actually thought my link was buffering again! Naw,back of the net and some sheepish defenders.
It’s way too early to write off our new players at the back,they all have their attributes. But they all have definite weaknesses,as do the ones already there. There’s a lot of work to be done on them as a unit,but at the moment that is difficult. So many injuries and suspensions already that we don’t have the luxury of a settled back four. That will come,I’m sure. I’ve watched many a Celtic side with a defence that made me cry,and I don’t think this one will do that. Well,not too often. But we won’t get away with defensive performances like that against everyone.
The game finished on a sour note apparently when a Motherwell employee had a go at Scott Sinclair. I don’t know the details of this yet,but I think we will hear more about it. It’s bad enough that our players are abused from the stands but getting it from a jobsworth isn’t on. That mob have been quick enough to go public on us,and Celtic need to defend Scott and demand appropriate sanctions. As well as a bloody big apology.
On to our most important game of the season so far,our home qualifier against Cluj on Tuesday. I’d say there’s little doubt that Ollie will start. If he plays like he did yesterday then we have little to fear. Other than our defence playing like it did on Saturday!!!
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