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Page last updated at 13:23 GMT, Saturday, 13 September 2008 14:23 UK

Motherwell 2-4 Celtic

By David McDaid

Shaun Maloney
Maloney notched the first goal of his second spell at Celtic

A flawless first-half performance gave Celtic victory over Motherwell, who rallied in the second period.

Shaun Maloney put the visitors ahead with a tap-in from close range after four minutes.

A volley from Scott McDonald, and a Georgios Samaras brace gave Celtic a four-goal half-time lead.

And despite John Sutton and David Clarkson pulling goals back after the break, it is Celtic who go into their European campaign on a high.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan raised some eyebrows by leaving out Andreas Hinkel, Paul Hartley, Shunsuke Nakamura and Aiden McGeady.

But the new-look midfield, anchored by Marc Crosas in his first start, displayed an energy and inventiveness that had been missing from previous matches this season.

Scott Brown had more licence to move forward and, with only five minutes on the clock, he whipped the ball across goal between defence and goalkeeper.

Maloney was at the back post to tap the ball into an open net for his first goal since returning to Celtic in August.

Samaras doubled Celtic's lead just four minutes later when the Greek striker slipped the ball past Graeme Smith from ten yards after collecting McDonald's lay-off.

After giving the away team a two-goal start, Motherwell steadied the ship.

However, they still struggled to create clear-cut chances, with John Sutton snatching at two shots, skewing one high and the other well wide.

And just as Motherwell were starting to play themselves into the game, they conceded a sloppy third.

Mark Wilson delivered a throw-in to McDonald, who was allowed to spin round Mark Reynolds too easily, and the Australian hit his first-time shot high into the net from inside the box.


David Clarkson struck an acrobatic overhead kick past Artur Boruc on the half-hour mark, but the Motherwell forward had strayed offside.

The Steelmen were fortunate not to go further behind when Maloney hit the bar from a free-kick.

But the respite was brief as Lee Naylor, McDonald and Samaras combined superbly for the Greek to slot the ball past Smith for number four, and the home side left the pitch at half-time to a cacophony of boos.

Samaras, excellent throughout, should have teed up McDonald for the fifth goal, but instead shot weakly with a hat-trick beckoning.

But, Motherwell manager Mark McGhee must have had stern words for his charges during the break, as it was the Steelmen who pulled one back after 55 minutes when John Sutton lashed a low volley past Boruc after Keith Lasley had nodded the ball down in the box.

And Clarkson brought Motherwell right back into the match two minutes later when he slid in to prod the ball under the Celtic goalkeeper.

The quick double had the visitors on the ropes as Motherwell grew in confidence and, with ten minutes remaining, Clarkson again came close with a header that Boruc tipped away.

But the Glasgow side weathered the storm to emerge victors in a fantastic contest as both teams now turn their attentions to European competition in mid-week.

Motherwell manager Mark McGhee:
"I think we were outclassed totally in the first half by a very good Celtic team.

"I don't read too much into the second-half comeback, the first half was the barometer I'm looking at, and it shows how far we still have to go.

"Some of our play wasn't bad even in the first half, but individually our defending was poor - in particular at the Scott McDonald goal."

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan:
"I thought the football at times was exhilarating against a good Motherwell side."

"We've not done that to many teams for a long time, and I thought the players' focus was excellent.

"Samaras' performance was near enough 10 out of 10. He was great in the air, on the ball, scored goals, and in the fourth goal we saw a goal you dream of as a football manager."

Motherwell: Graeme Smith, Quinn, Craigan, Reynolds, Hammell, Hughes, Lasley, McGarry (O'Brien 58), Clarkson (Murphy 86), Porter, Sutton.
Subs Not Used: Nielsen, Malcolm, Darren Smith, Fitzpatrick,Connolly.

Booked: Lasley, Craigan, Reynolds.

Goals: Sutton 55, Clarkson 57.

Celtic: Boruc, Wilson, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor, Robson, Crosas (Nakamura 80), Scott Brown, Maloney, Samaras, McDonald (Sheridan 86).
Subs Not Used: Mark Brown, McGeady, Loovens, Donati, Caddis.

Booked: McDonald, Robson, Samaras.

Goals: Maloney 5, Samaras 9, McDonald 24, Samaras 42.

Ref: C Thomson.

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Celtic's Georgios Samaras, 8.79 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

see also
SPL as it happened
13 Sep 08 |  Scottish Premier
SPL photo gallery
13 Sep 08 |  Scottish Premier

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