Motherwell 2 Glasgow Celtic 3

Last updated : 30 October 2004 By Footymad Previewer

Injury-ravaged Celtic returned to winning ways following their midweek defeat to Aberdeen thanks to a hard-fought 3-2 win at Fir Park.

Martin O'Neill's side travelled to Lanarkshire without Chris Sutton who picked up an injury in Wednesday's defeat, although on the plus side Alan Thompson returned to the side after injury.

The Steelmen were forced to start without the influential duo of skipper Scott Leitch and top scorer Scott McDonald following their midweek defeat at the hands of Kilmarnock.

The home side showed little sign of a hangover from that loss as they paid little respect to the Bhoys. In the early stages a Richie Foran header was cleared by Joos Valgaeren while Alex Burns' effort drifted on to the roof of the net.

Jamie Paterson posed problems for Didier Agathe on the Well left but his crosses found no takers. Terry Butcher's side carved out the best chance of the early stages when Steven Hammell poked the ball forward to Burns but the striker blasted over from 15 yards out.

On the half-hour mark both sides had goals ruled out for offside with David Clarkson's header for Well and Juninho's tap in both being correctly ruled out by a wave of the assistant's flag.

It was a measure of how much the Celtic defence was being put under pressure when the referee was forced to flash yellow cards to Thompson and Valgaeren in quick succession as they both barged clumsily in to Motherwell attackers.

Just as it looked as though Celtic would go through the half without an effort on goal they conjured up the opener five minutes before the interval. Juninho, who had been moved to the right, shredded the Well defence before setting up Aiden McGeady to tap in from six yards out.

The second half started brightly with both sides committed to attack. John Hartson's header failed to trouble Gordon Marshall and Burns' free-kick floated wide of David Marshall's right-hand post.

The next chance fell to Celtic on the hour mark when Juninho flicked the ball over Marshall as the Well keeper tried to head the ball but the little Brazilian sent his shot tamely into the side-netting.

Three minutes later the game looked to be safe for the visitors when Phil O'Donnell fouled Stilian Petrov in the box and Thompson coolly slotted home the spot-kick.

But the home side plugged away and when Hammell cut in from the left his ball reached Martyn Corrigan whose 25-yard shot skipped off the turf and past the despairing Marshall.

Three minutes later Well were level when Bobo Balde misjudged a long ball and bundled Clarkson over in the box. This time it was Foran who was efficient from the spot leaving Marshall helpless.

The play raged on and it was Celtic who restored their lead in the 76th minute. Jackie McNamara's pass after a strong surging run released substitute Craig Beattie who gratefully slammed his shot high past Marshall.

The goal was enough for Celtic to open up the gap at the top of the table to seven points for at least 24 hours.

They showed enough resolve and an extra bit of quality to keep the pressure on Aberdeen and Rangers who clash on Sunday afternoon.

MAN OF THE MATCH: John Hartson (Celtic) - Led the forward line expertly and helped the youngsters around him clinch a vital victory.