Celtic 1-0 Motherwell: Hooper strike hands Hoops home victory

Fraser Forster’s second half penalty save springs the SPL league leaders to life as they head off for the winter break in a commanding position at the top of the table
Celtic striker Gary Hooper found the target in the second half to send the league leaders into the winter break with a win over Motherwell.

The Parkhead side also had keeper Fraser Forster to thank, after the giant English stopper made a crucial save from a Tom Hateley penalty with the sides level.

Home boss Neil Lennon rang the changes from the side that went down to defeat away to Hibernian on Saturday, with Mikael Lustig, Tomas Rogne, Scott Brown and Lassad Niouoi dropping out to be replaced by Adam Matthews, Charlie Mulgrew, Kris Commons and Beram Kayal.

Meanwhile Stuart McCall made two changes from the team that drew at home to Kilmarnock, with Fraser Kerr and Zaine Francis-Angol coming in for Shaun Hutchinson and Michael Higdon, while Jamie Murphy was handed the captain’s armband on his final appearance before moving to Sheffield United.

Celtic looked to have opened the scoring within the first two minutes, as a superb cross from Commons found Georgios Samaras, who found the back of the net with a header, but the assistant referee raised his flag for offside.

The home side were in positive mood early on as Hooper had a chance, then Darren Randolph was forced to clear a Mulgrew corner that was heading for the back post away from danger as Celtic turned up the pressure.

The SPL league leaders were given a golden opportunity to take the lead as Mulgrew swung in a free-kick which found Efe Ambrose, who from close range somehow managed to miss the target.

Celtic continued to bombard the Motherwell goal for the remainder of the half, with Samaras having a strike which Randolph cleared out of play, then from the resulting corner the Irish stopper dropped the ball at the feet of Ambrose, but once again he failed to find the target.

The Fir Park side almost went into the lead at the start of the second half as Francis-Angol’s cross wasn’t cleared by the Celtic defence and the ball found the feet of Murphy, but his goal-bound strike was blocked by Kelvin Wilson.

That chance sprung the home side back into action as they looked to claim all three points, with Victor Wanyama having an effort at goal, then Kayal trying his luck.

With a quarter of an hour left Motherwell were awarded a penalty as Wilson brought down Murphy inside the box and that allowed Hateley to step-up from the spot, but Forster did superbly to save the kick.

The home side then made Motherwell pay minutes later as they counter-attacked down the left wing with Samaras and he crossed into the box for Hooper to finish from close range and put Celtic into the lead.

Both sides continued to move back and forth for the remainder of the game, but Celtic managed to hold out and secure the victory which sees them nine points clear at the winter break.