Celtic 1-1 Motherwell – Door left open to title rivals as Celtic slip up

Although Celtic today extended their lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership to 9 points, this afternoon’s insipid display has me worried that our recent form will give our rivals across the city that added boost as they strive to close the gap at the top of the league over the next few weeks.

Today’s performance was reminiscent to our meeting with the same opponents at Fir Park at the end of September. Yet again we struggled to break down a Motherwell side well set up by manager Stuart Kettlewell.

Pretty it certainly wasn’t but it sure is effective against this Celtic side. There has always been certain teams throughout a season that teams will struggle to break down. In the past the likes of Livingston and Kilmarnock, especially at their grounds, have proved problematic to break down and when it’s a one off its usually nothing to worry about but these situations have popped up on a few occasions already this season.

Celtic v Motherwell – cinch Premiership –   Celtic fan Rod Stewart gestures as he is pictured arriving ahead of the cinch Premiership match at Celtic Park, Saturday November 25, 2023. Photo Andrew Milligan

In the past month alone we have struggled to break down Hibs at Easter Road and St Mirren at Celtic Park. Today’s showing proved this is becoming something that is cropping up more often than we should be comfortable with.

There are of course mitigating factors to this with the main one being injuries. Losing players of the calibre of Reo Hatate, Liel Abada and Daizen Maeda would affect any team and we have certainly missed them. All three are goalscorers and we could have done with a few of them today.

We mustered plenty of chances this afternoon but our finishing was poor. It was disappointing seeing Yang limp off near the end of the match, hopefully he isn’t another who will join the long term injury list after performing well these past few weeks. Crazy to say but we are almost running out of wingers at this stage.

Photo Stuart Wallace/Shutterstock

Today also saw two of the things which annoy me about this Celtic team rear its ugly head once again. The first was a missed penalty. We honestly must be one of the teams with the poorest record from the spot in Scotland. It seems like it’s been years since we have had a proper dedicated penalty taker who is reliable from 12 yards. We seem to bounce from player to player and none are ever consistent enough to stake a claim to be our permanent penalty taker.

I have to say I have always disliked the stuttering style employed by Luis Palma although his previous penalty was fantastic, today’s was awful. I thought Turnbull did fantastically well however to steady himself and dispatch his opportunity effortlessly, especially with the amount of pressure on his shoulders at that moment.

The second annoyance was another thing that we have historically struggled with, defending set pieces. Motherwell were absolutely toothless in that second half yet you could see the encouragement they got from winning that corner. They knew it was their only chance, our players must have known the same. Yet somehow we still managed to mess it up. I was absolutely furious at that moment, giving away such an easy goal after working so hard to take the lead. We have to be much more switched on in these situations, especially knowing that our opponents in the league know it’s their main opportunity at grabbing a goal against us.

Photo Andrew Milligan

As I have already said, today’s result will be a huge shot in the arm for our title rivals. I still think we are a far superior team than them but they were always going to get a bounce after appointing a new manager and the last thing we want to be doing is leaving the door ajar and letting them believe they are still in the title race. We can’t afford to be throwing valuable points away.

If we can maintain a lead heading into the derby at the end of the year I feel we are good enough to beat them, especially at Celtic Park which will end their new manager bounce and let all their mental demons resurface. Until then however we need to get back to our free flowing best and makes days like today an easy three points instead of a long stressful 100 minute slog.

Conall McGinty

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About Author

Hailing from Cushendall in the North of Ireland my formative years were spent watching Celtic during our barren spell through the 90's which meant I have appreciated our recent trophy-laden spell even more. Favourite matches home and away I've attended has to be beating Man Utd 1-0 at Celtic Park and being with my 2 brothers watching us beat Lazio 2-1 in Rome. Best away day experience? Has to be Munich with friends from Coatbridge...what a few days!


  1. The minute we learn we can’t pin teams into their own box, the better; its a terrible way to play football & we constantly struggle to break them down like this & leave ourselves vulnerable to quick breaks & counter attacks!

    Our shots on target per shots hit ratio is miles behind all our domestic rivals, in large part due to the aforementioned where we have no space to operate in so rely on snatch shots & punts through a crowd whereas opposition find loads of room to operate in our 3rd of the pitch as we’re always caught chasing play back, and the better teams consistently punish us this way!

    Draw teams out of their third, invite them into a game and let our superior tactics and players use these advantages we have to exploit the space this creates.

    Our Centre Backs spent large parts of this game in Motherwell’s half, sometimes as close as 30 yards to the Motherwell goal, and with Well holding a backline around their penalty spot this left 20 men squeezed into a very small area of the pitch with no room to manoeuvre…it played right into Motherwell’s hands!

    If we’re going to insist on continuing playing all out attack stupid football then get as many attacking players on the pitch as possible, that way when you do pin a team in and the only players you have with time & space on the ball are ‘defenders’ then at least with say a midfielder in their place they might be able to create something.

    Personally I’d prefer we move with the times, drop the all out attack mantra and adopt a more practical approach to the game; it’d serve us well in Europe too but lets face it, anything other than what we currently employ in Europe would be an improvement!

    Motherwell had a gameplan & stuck to it, played a European style we often see foreign teams employ when visiting Celtic Park that yields them results and hey presto they got one because we don’t learn!

    Anyway, next up Lazio and a trip to Rome where the Pope has organised an audience with our players. 40 years ago this would have been like jackpot winning news, but nowadays, not so much; half our team probably don’t even know what a Pope is and a huge swathe of our fanbase are estranged from religions, but its a photo op for the club and Papacy…

    Lets hope BRo & the players were trying something different in amongst that riot on Saturday with a view to getting a result in Rome Tuesday night, then go see the Holy Father with a spring in their step & three Roman points in the bag.

    • *alternatively, when pinning teams in their own third, maybe have the centre backs in the opposition box where they’re useful as targetmen, and have two midfielders play the Centre Back role temporarily*

      Tbf to Scales and his rocket shot, he wasn’t that far off and with a little more practice who knows, we may have a new Turnbull, but I’d rather have someone with a shot like DT in that position in the first place who can take full advantage of the time & space afforded to our Centre Backs deep in opposition territory!