Football: Blinker's blind spot

Celtic 0 Motherwell 2 Coyle 28, Weir 90 Attendance: 48,010
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The Independent Online
CELTIC head coach Wim Jansen admitted that the dismissal of Regi Blinker proved the decisive moment in his team's dismal home defeat by Motherwell yesterday. Before the match victory had seemed a formality against the bottom club.

Owen Coyle put the visitors in front after 28 minutes, and seven minutes later Blinker clashed off-the-ball with Kevin Christie and the game was transformed. Jansen said later: "The game was going our way, but we then gave it away. I did not see the sending-off properly, so I will have to wait and see on that one, but losing Regi was the turning point of the game."

Morten Wieghorst made way for the full debut of Paul Lambert as Celtic made changes in the wake of last week's 1-0 reverse at Ibrox. David Hannah stepped in for the suspended Stephane Mahe, dismissed against Rangers, while Alan Stubbs was declared fit.

Motherwell, missing more than half of their first-team regulars, were also without Tommy Coyne, on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.

Stubbs forced an excellent tip-over from the visiting keeper Steve Woods with a powerfully struck free-kick after four minutes. From the corner, Simo Valakari cleared a Stubbs header off the line, then moments later Henrik Larsson put the ball in the net only to be ruled offside.

It was a big surprise when Coyne put the visitors in front after Valakari's free-kick fell to him on the edge of the area. Coyne's shot seemed to take a slight deflection.

Larsson's well-struck 48th-minute free-kick was as close as Celtic went in the second half to an equaliser but Parkhead was already emptying fast when Micky Weir sealed matters in the final minute.

For Motherwell's manager, Alex McLeish, the surprise result gave massive encouragement to his struggling side. "I can now enjoy a Saturday night for the first time in ages," he said.