SPL review: Motherwell stay top

Motherwell maintain their position as league leaders, Celtic make it three out of three, and Rangers win away to Inverness in a controversial clash.

At Parkhead, Celtic maintained their one hundred per cent record in the SPL this season with a 5-1 demolition of Dundee United, although the game was closer than the score-line suggests. There was no place in the starting line up for Northern Irish magician Paddy McCourt, after his mid-week wonder goal against the Faroes. ‘Derry’s Diego’ had to settle for a familiar place on the bench.

Anthony Stokes got the Celts off to a cracking start with just four minutes on the clock, heading in from a corner kick.

United got the equaliser that they were looking for on the half hour mark. Johnny Russell found himself unmarked ten yards from the Celtic goal, and fired home.

Celtic regained the lead almost immediately; Gary Hooper rising above the suspect United defence to nod in, 2-1.

In the 58th minute, Celtic effectively killed the game off, Kris Commons’s superbly weighted pass finding Ki Sung-Yeung who almost burst the net from 17 yards.

All credit to United, they continued to mount waves of attack against Celtic, in what was a very open game. Both Wilo Flood and Russell came close, with Zaluska pulling off a string of excellent saves.

With twenty minutes remaining, substitute Shaun Maloney turned provider for Celtic’s fourth. A neat cut-back from the goal line found Joe Ledley in space, and the midfielder tapped in to end United’s ambitions in the match. Maloney himself could have added a fifth five minutes later but dragged his shot wide.

A well worked injury time strike from James Forrest, on for the injured Commons, wrapped up what was a pleasing display for Neil Lennon,

‘I couldn’t ask any more of the players. Second half they really turned on the gas and some of the football was fantastic. We were clinical, which we weren’t last week at Aberdeen. We wanted the three wins out of three. We got that. I’m disappointed at conceding a goal but you can’t have everything.’

Lennon was confident about the prospect of adding to his squad before the transfer window closes,

‘Hopefully, we’ll have a couple of new faces in this week. If not, the week after. We’re working very hard behind the scenes.’

It may be a new season in Scotland, but it looks like the same level of poor refereeing prevails. Inverness put in a solid first half performance against a Rangers side that looked bereft of ideas, and a 0-0 scoreline was perhaps kinder on Rangers than it was on Caley, who were not without goal scoring opportunities. Terry Butcher would have been pleased with his sides plucky performance at the interval, what followed was an injustice.

Fifteen minutes into the second half, Ross Tokely made a perfectly timed sliding tackle on Steven Naismith, catching the ball cleanly. Quite unbelievably, Tokely was shown a straight red and Rangers were handed a penalty which Nikica Jelavic fired home.

Inverness were still trying to gather themselves when five minutes later, Rangers striker Doran Goian, went to ground under a weak challenge by Andrew Shinnie. To the amazement of the entire stadium, including Ally McCoist, referee Euan Norris awarded a second penalty. Jelavic’s effort was parried by Caley keeper Ryan Esson, but only as far as Maurice Edu, who side-footed it into the net.

Seven minutes later, Edu himself was shown a second yellow card for a sliding challenge on Nick Ross, resulting in his sending off.

The remainder of the match was played out in bad spirit, with referee Euan Norris trying to quell the situation that was entirely of his own making.

Terry Butcher had this to say, ‘I’m very angry. This is the second game in succession that penalties have been the main factor. I’ve seen the second one and it’s nowhere near a penalty. I couldn’t speak to you 10 minutes ago, because I would have probably ripped your head off. I thought I would have a quiet 15 minutes with Euan Norris and have a chat about things.

We’re getting to the stage where we just don’t make tackles. It’ll be more like ballet than anything else – we just can’t afford to make tackles because we run the risk of getting red cards.’

Elsewhere, Motherwell maintained their lead at the top of the table, a last minute free-kick from Tom Hately giving the Lanarkshire men a 0-1 victory over St Mirren.

Hearts recorded their first league win of Paulo Sergio’s reign. A goal from Arvydas Novikovas and a brace from John Sutton gave Hearts a convincing 3-0 victory over an Aberdeen side that look to be in trouble.

A first half strike from Dunfermline’s Andy Kirk was all that separated them from a St Johnstone side that will be disappointed they could not capitalise on having an extra man. John Potter was sent off for the Pars, but the Saints could not break down their opponents. It finished St Johnstone 0-1 Dunfermline.

In the Sunday lunchtime kick-off, a swaggering performance from Kilmarnock saw them run out 4-1 winners against a Hibernian side whose serious defensive problems were exposed. Killie move up to fourth place after manager Kenny Shields gets his first win as Rugby Park boss.


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