Motherwell 2 – 0 Celtic: Five reasons why

Celtic travelled to Motherwell this afternoon to play on perhaps the worst surface in the SPL. Fresh off the back of a marvellous 3-0 victory over Rangers, Neil Lennon’s Bhoys looked to extend the gap at the top.


Celtic and Motherwell forms of 4-4-2

The most significant impact on today’s proceeding was the immediate pressure put on the Celtic defence, and in particular Charlie Mulgrew. I’ve spoke already this season about Mulgrew’s past defensive failings (as a full-back) and have been surprised that Aberdeen, Hearts, Dundee Utd and Rangers haven’t asked any question whatsoever of the utility player.

1. Harrangue the defence into errors

Like the 2-2 draw with Rangers in the cup, from the get-go the home side were relentlessly pushing forward and putting the Celtic defence under pressure. The first chance fell to Humprey after Mulgrew miss kicked an easy clearance. Minutes later, Mulgrew was again at fault trying to shepherd the ball back to Forster. Instead of the safe option of blasting the ball into orbit, Mulgrew tried to be clever and let the keeper pick up the ball. But Forster hesitated, and John Sutton didn’t. Sutton went on to torment Mulgrew for 90 minutes.

2. Motherwell flood the midfield, break up play

Motherwell Reshape to 4-5-1

After the initial flurry of high-intensity pressing, Motherwell (perhaps easier than expected) got their reward and instantaneously switched to a 4-5-1. Jamie Murphy simply took up a position on the left flank in contention with Mark Wilson and the rest of the midfield adapted seamlessly. Again with the pitch perhaps contributing, Motherwell were able to disrupt Celtic’s favoured ‘on-the-deck’ style of passing. A combative, aggressive style that depended on Lasley, Jennings and Forbes making sure Ledley and Ki were not to have time on the ball. In fact the 3 arguably were getting away with persistent fouling and it’s no surprise that they all ended up in the book. Chief aggravator Keith Lasley came across distraught when he picked up a yellow after only 15 minutes, and there’s no doubt as to why.

3. Force Celtic to play a way they don’t want to

Even with players like Hooper, Stokes, Ki and Commons, who all have excellent close control, Celtic were unable to keep the ball on the deck and play the way they want to. A combination of awful, divetty pitch, aggressive pressing from Motherwell and general poor performance contributed to Celtic’s inability to create chances. The half-chances that were created went badly wrong every time, so perhaps an element of luck involved too. Stokes in particular had a chance that fell on his unfavoured left side to shoot, but hesitation dissipated the chance.

So Celtic were torn between their instinctive passing style and the more tempting long-ball approach, by-passing the quagmire in midfield. Normally a reasonable alternative for a side, Celtic must have one of the smallest starting sides in the SPL and Hooper and Stokes were easily dealt with aerially. This surrender to the long-ball approach meant that the height of Georgios Samaras was required, and the ineffectual Stokes was withdrawn.

At this point in summary, Celtic were chasing the game and torn between either a blood and snotters scrap in midfield or an unnatural long-ball approach.

4. Celtic’s full-backs pinned

With Common’s often roaming inside to find space and Scott Brown tucked in on the other side, the matter of width falls on the lap of Izaguirre and Wilson – both in-form “gallivanting”, attacking full-backs. But having conceded an early goal and with Motherwell outnumbering the midfield, their wide midfielders (Humphrey and Murphy) were able to dedicate their time to neutralising the threat of Celtic’s full-backs.

Humphrey was in particular a potent outlett, and offered a pace and acceleration that Izaguirre isn’t used to in the SPL. And with Celtic’s width stunted, this funnelled more and more play into the dreaded middle…..

5. Simply out played

Tactical nuances aside and most significant of all, the bottom line is Motherwell were more motivated, dealt with the pitch better, more organised and finally simply performed better as individuals. On the other hand the Celtic individuals could consider this their worst showing of the season.

Could it have been a hangover from the Old Firm derby? Was it the pitch? Was it the fact Beram Kayal was missing? Was it the flimsily soft penalty? All of the above and more. While it was a perfect storm, nothing should be taken away from Motherwell who were excellent. John Sutton completely dominated Charlie Mulgrew all match and probably didn’t lose an aerial jostle. Humphrey on the wing looked dangerous every time the ball went to his feet. The centre of midfield was tough and unforgiving, and finally the defence were solid and made SPL top scorers Stokes and Hooper look poor.

A rousing day for Stuart McCall but sadly for Lennon, a thumping fall to earth.


About tictacticuk

Football fan and commentator of all things Celtic FC.
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11 Responses to Motherwell 2 – 0 Celtic: Five reasons why

  1. Joe Kerr says:

    I thought performances like that where behind us, truly pathetic.

    Even without the “honest” penalty we could have played all day and not scored.

    Rangers you now have to think are 1 point infront.

    I hope and pray this was a blip. Never seen a performance like that coming.

    • tictacticuk says:

      Thanks for the comment (and to everyone elses)

      I think we’ve all summed up that that standard was absolutely unacceptable and we never looked like scoring.

      Hopefully Lennon sorts it out for Wednesday… Cheers again

  2. paul ferrin says:

    .We were outfought from start to finish, Lenny learned a bit more about the team today and will do what he has to do. The guy is a genius and things like today have to happen to allow him to make changes. Look at Man U and Wolves recently . In games like that today you prob need a target man to win ball upfront, you think Neil dosent know that? The upside is we will be fired up for wed and now the bhoys know its 100% everygame , we were thinkn how many not if we would win or not. Get stuck in lads and keep it tight at the back

  3. corrib04 says:

    fantastic assessment (as always)
    there were one or two older heads who saw this coming. I would hazard a guess that Lenny had his post match comments written before the game. he would have seen a youthful side being overly confident during training. You cannot coach that out of players, fore-warnings are useless, they have to suffer the ignomony of defeat at the home of an average but very hard working side for the message to sink home.

    fight in every game for the right to be crowned champions. we have a fight on our hands on wed. rangers will not lie down.
    cometh the hour….?. Lets see if we have the character and professionalism to react in a positive way during the next few weeks

  4. Stephen says:

    One of the worst performances of the year no one expected as easy time at Motherwell especially with McCall as manager they were always going to raise their game he had his team fighting and chasing everything, on that showing they should be top of the table. It showed that when it comes down to a battle our players are not up for a fight. You can be the best footballing team in Scotland but if you don’t have the heart then you will win nothing. This is a warning for Wednesday night boys, Rangers will be out for revenge so we need to meet that challenge and prove we have the makings of Champions

  5. trueblue says:

    please good trades man never blames his tools fact is celtic were crap maybe not the world calls players lemmon was on about have to laugh tho past few weeks celtic thought their team was world beaters now BUMP back to earth time

  6. trueblue says:

    sorry that was world class before the politically correct get on my case

  7. Darth Vidar says:


    Have you found yourself on a Celtic Tactics board as the Rangers Tacticts board would read the same for every game: “10 men behind the ball for 85 minutes and 5 minutes of punting the ball up to the lone striker.” Dull football for a soulless club.

    Top o’ the league and you’re no’.

  8. Henry Clarson says:

    You’ve called it very well in this analysis. Only thing that I’m not in total agreement with is in ascribing all of the blame for the first goal to Mulgruyol. I felt that he was entitled to expect the ‘keeper to come and claim the ball as Charlie shepherded it back to him. Instead, the goalie was hesitant and indecisive.
    Yes, Mulgrew should probably have taken no risks whatsoever and hoofed it into orbit but I think his biggest mistake was to credit Forster with more alertness than he seems to possess. For me, if the goalie has come *that* far off his line (and he’s facing the play too) he really ought to assume complete command of the situation.
    It wasn’t Charlie’s finest performance though.

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