Motherwell 1-2 Celtic: Visitors maintain seven-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership

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They are almost through the blizzard. With just one game of an arduous autumn schedule to go, Celtic have clear daylight in the title race.

Given they turned a four-point deficit into a four-point triumph last season, Ange Postecoglou will need to remind no one of the perils in assuming anything about the seven-point advantage his side presently hold.

There is no disputing, however, that it’s a sizeable lead even at this early juncture.

The Australian’s side were some way short of their best at Fir Park last night but still their perfect sequence in domestic games throughout this recent hectic run continued.

With reinforcements due to arrive at the turn of the year, it would take a brave man betting against Celtic’s lead diminishing by any appreciable amount between now and May.

They seemed well on course for another routine win here when Kyogo Furuhashi edged them in front after 15 minutes here but a combination of profligacy and Motherwell’s commendable backbone ensured that didn’t quite materialise.

It took until six minutes from time for a game which was high on endeavour and low on quality to be seemingly settled with Daizen Maeda climbing off the bench to convert on the counter attack.

Steve Hammell’s men deserve much credit for the way they stuck to the task. Substitute Ross Tierney gave them a degree of hope with a lovely finish with three minutes remaining but the one additional gilt-edged chance that the home fans craved just didn’t materialise.

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You have to tip your hat to Celtic’s ability to keep going and keep winning. Between facing Motherwell on October 1 and again last night, Postecoglou’s side have played 12 games in 38 days.

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There was truthfully little to encourage the home fans that they might witness an upset. This fixture at this venue has offered nothing but misery of late. Celtic had scored 10 times across their last three visits without reply.

Far too passive in the four-goal drubbing in the League Cup last time out, there was noticeably more aggression from the home side from the outset.

Stephen O’Donnell did well to win the ball back in a promising area and clipped it round Greg Taylor. Kevin van Veen did the hard part by sidestepping the advancing figure of Joe Hart. The angle was closing on the Dutchman but he ought to have done better than clip the upright.

Hammell was dismayed that his side didn’t take an early lead but there was still much on show to please him in the opening quarter of an hour. Provided his players maintained their concentration, they could grow into this.

The manner of the concession was, therefore, deeply frustrating from the home side’s perspective.

Callum Slattery was in complete control of the situation inside his own box after he beat Matt O’Riley to Jota’s pass.

Underestimating the reach of O’Riley’s leg when he went to ground, Slattery had his pocket picked. He could only watch on in horror as the midfielder drilled in a low cross for Furuhashi to convert from four yards. Talk about a cheap goal to lose.

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It was the Japanese’s 11th goal of the campaign and his fourth in five games. Despite being omitted from his nation’s World Cup squad, he’s certainly found his mojo again at club level.

For Motherwell, it was already a case of staying in the game until the break. Jota eliminated Sean Goss with a delightful nutmeg but fired over.

Hammell’s problems were compounded when Betis Mugabi hobbled after after denying Aaron Mooy with a fine block 12 yards out. Sondre Solholm was introduced.

Celtic were starting to get into their groove. Cameron Carter-Vickers’ inch-perfect cross found Jota with Liam Kelly fielding the Portuguese’ fierce strike.

The home side’s best chance if an equaliser stemmed from the unlikely source of Greg Taylor after he inadvertently played in Slattery with a loose cross field pass. Slattery’s attempt to chip Hart from inside his own half was decent but lacking accuracy.

Motherwell were aggrieved that VAR saw nothing amiss with Reo Hatate’s tangle with O’Donnell just before the break.

Clearly vexed that the defender had put paid to his hopes of converting Liel Abada’s through ball, the Japanese did catch his opponent with a flick of his leg but, evidently, not to the extent that merited a review.

Hammell’s hopes of a response weren’t helped by the early withdrawals of Van Veen and Stuart McKinstry, with Connor Shields and Josh Morris pitched in before 55 minutes had elapsed.

Jota might well have already put the game beyond them only for Goss to head his header over the top just after the restart.

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The linesman’s flag denied the Celtic winger after a breathtaking piece of skill by Furuhashi on the touchline had bamboozled two home players.

With the game stretched, Ricki Lamie got his body in the way of Hatate’s strike with the defender sensibly keeping his arms by his sides.

Furuhashi and Louis Moult, the latest Motherwell substitute, traded bookings with the Celtic man immediately replaced with Giorgos Giakoumakis for his own good.

Perhaps the large number of changes affected the flow of the game but the second half was poor stuff, all fouls, stoppages and unforced errors.

Giakoumakis’ attempt to convert Jota’s cross summed it all up, the Greek missing when it seemed easier to score after Lamie’s untimely slip.

Moult almost made him pay dearly for it. Matt Penney’s cross was caught cleanly by the forward and Hart was relieved to see the header bounce over the bar. A wayward O’Donnell strike was another warning that this one was still alive.

With six minutes later, Motherwell forced a corner and then a throw-in but Penney was in too big a hurry and possession was lost. Out stepped Oliver Abildgaard. The Dane released a wonderful cross field pass to fellow substitute Maeda with the winger racing away and finishing superbly.

Tierney game Motherwell hope of an unlikely comeback three minutes later when he guided Slattery’s dipping ball beyond Hart but Celtic were not to be denied.

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