Motherwell 3-1 Celtic: Hosts seal Europa League place with victory over SPL champions

SPFA player of the year nominee Michael Higdon helps the Lanarkshire side get one step closer to sealing second place in the SPL with a penalty to defeat champions Celtic
Motherwell secured a Europa League place for next season as they came from behind to claim a 3-1 victory over SPL champions Celtic at Fir Park.

Gary Hooper had given the Glasgow side the lead, before a Henrik Ojamaa strike, a penalty from Michael Higdon and an own goal by Fraser Forster secured second place for the Steelmen.

Home boss Stuart McCall stuck with the same team that defeated Dundee United last Friday to remain clear in second place, while his opposite number, Neil Lennon, made six changes from the side that claimed the SPL title with victory over Inverness CT, as Efe Ambrose, Kelvin Wilson, Joe Ledley, Kris Commons, James Forrest and Anthony Stokes were all left out.

With 26 minutes gone in the first half, Motherwell's maverick winger, James McFadden, rolled back the years after receiving possession on the left wing. He made his way into the box, jinking past three defenders, but his strike sailed wide of goal.

Darren Randolph had to react well on the half-hour mark to keep the home side level as Charlie Mulgrew whipped a free kick round the wall, but the Ireland international stretched out his full frame to divert it away for a corner.

The Motherwell stopper had to be on top form again minutes later as Tony Watt played the ball in from the right, directly to Hooper at the back post, but he was denied by the home stopper with a superb save.

With five minutes left in the half, Celtic took the lead as a result of a rash decision by Randolph, coming out to meet Watt on the left side of the box and that allowed the youngster to cross for Hooper, who found the net with his second effort, after the first one struck the bar.

On the stroke of half-time McCall's side drew level, when Keith Lasley played a pass through the middle of the Celtic defence, allowing Ojamaa to break through on goal and smash the ball past Forster at his near post.

With three minutes gone in the second period, Motherwell were handed a chance from the spot as Mulgrew tangled in the box with Ojamaa and that allowed Higdon to fire the resulting penalty into the top corner.

Celtic went further behind with 10 minutes gone in the half, as Tom Hateley lofted a cross into the box in search of Higdon, but Mikael Lustig headed towards his own goal, with the ball smacking off the post and then off the back of Forster, before nestling in the goal.

With the visitors chasing the game that allowed Motherwell to race in on the counterattack, with both McFadden and Higdon having efforts to extend their advantage, but neither could find a way past Forster.

Despite Celtic's best efforts, the home side hung on and sealed a place in the Europa League, while also strengthening their claim to second place, being nine points ahead of St Johnstone, with three games remaining and having a 12-goal advantage over the Perth side.