Celtic made it four wins in a row with a game that showed their courage and quality as they came back from 2-1 down to take three points at Fir Park.
This 3-2 win was a classic confrontation at a ground which has proved to be tricky for Celtic in recent years. Faced with Jim Gannon’s busy young Motherwell side, Georgios Samaras fired Celtic into the lead before Motherwell rallied.
However, Tony Mowbray’s men came back to dominate the second half and earn the win with two outstanding goals from Aiden McGeady and Marc-Antoine Fortune.
With an unchanged line-up and looking very much like a side who have gained confidence and momentum in their recent run of three wins, Celtic started the game positively, passing the ball well on a hard playing surface.
There were some doubts about whether the game would actually go ahead, with the temperature below zero and a thick, freezing fog enveloping Fir Park and its surrounds.
But the playing conditions passed a cursory inspection from referee Charlie Richmond and the game started at a brisk pace, with Samaras carving out the first chance of the match in the ninth minute.
Marc Crosas started the move, snuffing out a ball in the middle of the park and sparking a quick counter-attack that ended with Samaras going through on goal and firing off a shot that John Ruddy deflected up and onto the crossbar.
Then, six minutes later, the big striker took a ball in to feet from Glenn Loovens and turned beautifully, ghosting past Steve Jennings and Mark Saunders before hammering the ball past the helpless John Ruddy.
In the wake of the opener, Celtic looked in control and ready to add to their tally, with Aiden McGeady, who was the target of disgraceful chanting from the home support throughout the match, threatened on a couple of occasions, firing in one shot that was saved by Ruddy.
Anything Motherwell had thrown in to the Celtic box had been easily dealt with by the defence until they appeared to lose concentration, allowing a ball to be played in to the unmarked Lukas Jutkiewicz.
The on-loan Everton man got in front of Gary Caldwell and slotted it beneath Artur Boruc to make it 1-1 and completely change the tone of the match.
With Motherwell given fresh impetus, the home side began to make better use of possession.
Then, seconds before the interval, the home side went 2-1 up. It was a dubious free-kick which presented them with the chance, with the set-piece lifted into the box by Tom Hateley.
The ball evaded everyone, dropping in space for Mark Reynolds, who struck it perfectly on the volley at a tight angle, past Artur Boruc.
The half-time break allowed Celtic to regroup and they looked far more positive at the start of the second half, immediately pushing forward in pursuit of a leveller.
But when the goal came, it proved to be one of outstanding quality from McGeady. With Celtic spreading play and Samaras laying it off, the winger looked up and placed a wonderful strike into the top corner of the net.
It was a brilliant goal, one which lit up the afternoon and was only eclipsed in its quality by Fortune’s later strike.
With the score all-square, it was now all Celtic. Motherwell may have threatened occasionally on the counter-attack, but Mowbray’s men were now dominating and creating chance after chance.
One goalmouth melee saw McGeady have two attempts on goal, followed by shots from Samaras and McDonald, with the little Australian also smacking the bar when he stole in at the back post.
Charlie Richmond also managed to miss a blatant handball in the box by Motherwell’s Steve Jennings just yards in front of him, but did award a penalty when Samaras was crudely challenged from behind.
However, Barry Robson was unable to convert it, hitting a poor effort that was saved by Ruddy.
The missed opportunity might have deflated a lesser side, but Celtic continued to push forward relentlessly.
Then, with his second touch of the match, substitute Fortune scored the goal of the season so far.
The striker had only been on the park for seconds when he won a header and flicked it on to McDonald. He then turned and stepped on to McDonald’s neat return on the edge of the box, rifling it first-time into the top corner.
It was a wonderful strike from a player whose opening months at Celtic have been disrupted by injury.
It was a worthy match-winner and a well-earned three points that keeps Celtic top of the table and confidence high ahead of a European encounter with Rapid Vienna and a game against Hearts at Tynecastle next Sunday.
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