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Motherwell 3 Celtic 3: Sutton twist to tale

NEIL Lennon is naturally entitled to disagree, but there is little question both sides got pretty much what they deserved from an entertaining game at Fir Park.

Motherwell striker John Sutton celebrates his late equaliser in front of the home fans	Photograph: SNS
Motherwell striker John Sutton celebrates his late equaliser in front of the home fans Photograph: SNS

Motherwell could easily have given up the ghost after seeing a dominant position established by first-half efforts from John Sutton and Zaine Francis-Angol crumble to dust thanks to goals for Celtic from Anthony Stokes, Georgios Samaras and substitute Leigh Griffiths.

Instead, they gathered themselves for one last rally deep in stoppage-time and got their reward, becoming only the third team this season, along with AC Milan and Barcelona, to score three against Celtic through Sutton's 21st goal of the campaign.

Motherwell are now only two points shy of their total for the whole of last term and it is to the credit of manager Stuart McCall that they have achieved this with a squad that had to be radically restructured following a host of high-profile departures.

Celtic spent the first 45 minutes daydreaming about their summer holidays and such slackness, not to mention the quite appalling defending that carried on from first to last, did not merit victory.

"I am annoyed," manager Lennon said. "We were poor defensively in the first half and gifted Motherwell two goals.

"They got a bit of a rocket at half-time and were fantastic. I won't say it was a fair result because we should have won the game, but there was definitely a psychological edge missing in the first half."

Celtic's first defensive disaster came as early as the fourth minute when Motherwell centre-back Stephen McManus launched a long, hopeful ball forward from inside his own half.

It should have been meat and drink to Efe Ambrose but he failed to make any kind of contact on the ball after a half-hearted jump, permitting Sutton to steal in behind him and release a low first-time shot that squirmed under the body of Fraser Forster and over the line.

Celtic offered further encouragement to their hosts by failing from the penalty spot on 20 minutes after Stokes was stopped dead by an Iain Vigurs bodycheck. Kris Commons's spot-kick was well struck and well directed but Gunnar Nielsen produced a marvellous one-handed save.

It is impossible to say anything good about Celtic's attempts to prevent the goal that doubled Motherwell's advantage in the 44th minute.

Stevie Hammell hooked the ball into the area from the left and it bounced through Virgil van Dijk, Henri Anier and Emilio Izaguirre before providing Francis-Angol with the simple task of scoring from a matter of yards. Just as it looked like Celtic might be heading for just their second league defeat of the campaign, though, they benefited from a spot of good fortune.

Stokes played a one-two with Scott Brown inside the area and, with Fraser Kerr failing to close him down, sent a delicate chip over Nielsen and in at the far post.

Celtic needed Beram Kayal to clear a Sutton header off the line before Samaras levelled after 56 minutes. Stokes produced a first-time shot from the edge of the box from a McManus clearance and the Greek was on hand to stick out a leg and divert it into the net from seven yards or so.

Motherwell had strong claims for a penalty eight minutes from time when Samaras appeared to use a hand when controlling Francis-Angol's cross and it looked like their afternoon's efforts would prove to be in vain when Griffiths moved on to a low pass from Stokes to make it 3-2 to the visitors. His decision to celebrate by running off the field behind the goal landed him a yellow card.

Motherwell manager Stuart McCall said: "I knew Leigh would come on and score. He will probably miss three or four games against our rivals if he gets banned [at his SFA disciplinary hearing on Thursday]."

Griffiths' goal should have finished it but Celtic were fragile throughout and home substitute Lionel Ainsworth, played in by Craig Reid, outstripped Izaguirre before sending a low cross across the six-yard box.

Sutton, in this kind of form, needs no second invitation, He will be an important figure as the Lanarkshire club continue their battle with Aberdeen for second place.

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