Arnott spoils party

Celtic 1 O'Donnell 6 Motherwell 1 Arnott 69 Attendance: 33,000
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The Independent Online
BETWEEN a European hangover and the first old firm shindig of the season on Tuesday, this was a house-warming Celtic could have done without. For one half, on the day when Celtic Park greeted league football after a year's absence, the home side led comfortably through Phil O'Donnell's excellent solo goal. Yet they faded badly on the second lap and, after Dougie Arnott pounced to equalise for Motherwell, Celtic finished punch-drunk in this engrossing match.

A bleary-eyed Celtic had begun sluggishly, permitting the visitors a glut of early possession and the debutant Malky MacKay's square pass allowed Arnott to put Tommy Coyne clear on goal.

But Celtic's renaissance includes new self-belief. They began to take control after the Coyne scare and, though they might have been wearied by a return trip to Georgia, which saw them arrive home less than 24 hours before kick-off, the energy expended by Celtic's five-man midfield overwhelmed Motherwell. Their progress was for a while irresistible.

But Motherwell, fluid and neat coming forward, could be dangerous. After the restart Celtic's mid-week journey started to take effect. First Coyne was left unguarded and stretched Gordon Marshall in the Celtic goal with a stealthy header. Then Arnott swivelled round Tom Boyd and brushed the crossbar with a shot from 18 yards.

After 70 minutes, Celtic were punished. Coyne slipped ahead of Boyd, turned on a long throw-in and Arnott equalised from close range.

Neither side played for the draw. Further bursts from O'Donnell and Arnott threatened goals at each end. Celtic spurned the best chance when Rudi Vata headed a corner wide right at the end.

With two young managers leaping from their perspex dug-outs on one track side and the new 27,000-seater North Stand on the other, this game was surrounded by modernity. If the football was anything to go by, we must welcome the new.