The other side of Motherwell 2-1 Celtic

Written by Kris Jack.

ON Wednesday, with the arrival of Celtic at Fir Park, and another four SPL games that could have league standing implications, Stuart McCall's men had not only been overtaken by Derek Adams' Ross County side thanks to a 3-0 win over the Steelmen and a 1-0 victory over Aberdeen the night before, but could have dropped as far as sixth and maybe seventh had Kilmarnock scored a barrow load in their game.

Instead, The Well earned perhaps their finest victory of the season and did so fairly comfortably, against a Celtic side that had scored 12 goals in their previous three games.

I don't feel I am being hyperbolic in the usage of the word "comfortably" in that last sentence. Despite what the papers and the BBC highlights showed, Motherwell were the better side for the majority of that game and were fully deserving of the 2-1 victory. As a lifelong Well fan, I've seen us scrape wins versus Celtic or the old Rangers, with backs to the wall performances and lucky breaks to clinch the victory, but on Tuesday night, two years to the day since it last happened, MFC secured a brilliant win over the Champions elect.

Not that most media outlets would have you believe it. From stating the irrelevance of the result in the grand scheme of things, to not even mentioning that it saw Motherwell jump back up to second spot, to insinuating that the most eye catching thing about James McFadden's efforts were his green and white boots, the retelling of the match did it's best to sweep the Motherwell win under the carpet. Fair play to the BBC, who did however have the result as 2-0 to Motherwell, but again, the lack of facts and substance reared its head.

The performance of the side from back to front was exactly what was needed as a reaction to the disappointment of the last two matches. It was a gamble to start McFadden, who hadn't started a game in almost three years, or as one paper had rather more dramatically put it, had not started a Motherwell game in a decade.

The gamble paid off, as the new/old Faddy set the tone for the whole game, much like the old/new Faddy had when Motherwell won by the same scoreline back in September 2002, in a game where he scored one and created one against the Hoops. While not getting on the scoresheet himself on Tuesday, his presence, brain and his top level experience shone through.

Quick to realise that Beram Kayal would be nipping in the ear of Iain Brines all game, McFadden followed suit, to keep the influence better balanced. Where he was a victim of some meaty challenges in the early exchanges, he kept his head and battled just as hard to frustrate the likes of Kayal and Adam Matthews, never giving them a moment's peace. Winning aerial battles at the halfway line was something that hadn't been in his game ten years ago, yet any time Darren Randolph fired a kick out up the left channel, there was the former Scotland talisman leaping to win possession by hook (over the head) or by crook.

It was from a similar move that Motherwell took the lead as McFadden's flick on, after a word with Randolph as to where to put the ball, was won by Ojamaa, who fed Lasley, who released Law, who mugged off Wanyama to shoot, finding Chris Humphrey at the back post to give the Well the lead. Fluid, fast and finished, it was a marvellously worked goal and one that was deserving of the half time lead.

McFadden's influence on the first half had been brilliant and his tenacity rubbed off on the rest of the side, who harried and hustled and got right in the faces of the Celtic side, who would normally have been a goal or two to the good within the first 20 minutes at Fir Park. Instead, MFC had the lead, and where fears of being able to hang on to a one goal advantage for another 45 would have crept in, the performance of the men in claret and amber managed to keep those feelings at bay.

Celtic drew level with a Samaras header just after the hour, which was highly preventable from a Motherwell stand point, but the Bhoys' only real spark of the night, James Forrest, did well to create the chance in the first place.

Undeterred, the Well did not collapse, or invite Celtic on despite the setback. No, they kept the same level of tempo, even after McFadden had vacated the action, to go on and clinch the winner. After Ambrose and Matthews got themselves in a fankle, the Well broke quickly, Nicky Law pulling the same move as he had done on Wanyama to the African Nations Cup winner at the by-line, to cross for Michael Higdon to side foot volley past Forster for the winner.

It was another exquisite bit of play by Law and a fantastic finish for Higgy's 18th SPL goal of the season, the goal that would clinch the win and possibly a move away in the summer, if you believe Nicky Law's Man of the Match interview on Sky afterwards. While McFadden ground away in a magnificent first start performance, Nicky Law's contribution was its equal. This season, his creativity has shown little bounds and will be another player who will be sorely missed when he inevitably leaves in the summer. Where last season, he and Ojamaa struck up a great partnership, the thought of Law and McFadden together is now real and paid dividends in Tuesday's win.

Post match, McCall was pleased that the performance had been a reversal of the one four days earlier, while James McFadden coolly and calmly stated his case for not being a luxury player or a shirker, instead backing up his workmanlike performance by stating he was focused on working hard for the team; not just a pair of green and white boots.

Neil Lennon was full of gripes about his players and the result afterwards, in an attempt to take the gloss off the Motherwell victory to the press. His statements were remarkable, only in terms of their inaccuracies, yet still managed to quell the praise that the men in claret and amber deserved from such a win.

Bemoaning the luck of Motherwell who only had one shot in the first half, despite a number of chances he claims the Hoops created in the first forty five was nothing short of fantasy. Celtic didn't trouble Darren Randolph until just before the hour. He also felt that when Motherwell equalised, he still felt Celtic could go on to win. Neither of those things happened.

His rants about players getting the chop if they continue to under perform was nothing more than headline grabbing nonsense, lip service to make it seem like he actually cared about winning the league.

It was a bemusing presser to say the least, and from a Celtic point of view, it did its job. It prevented the media outlets from giving McCall's men the hyperbole, and kept the focus on a Celtic loss rather than a Motherwell win.

However, in the hearts and minds of the Motherwell support is where the truth and spectacle of that victory will lie, and will do so for some time yet.

Back up to second, as other results went in MFC's favour, the road to being "Best of the Rest" continues at Tynecastle on Saturday, and with Hearts having parted company with John McGlynn on Thursday, not only does McCall have to ensure his side doesn't get complacent after such a big result, but he needs to focus on the inevitable rise in the Jambos game, as is the custom of a managerial change.


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