Beattie calms Celtic nerves

Motherwell 2 - Celtic 3
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The Independent Online

Craig Beattie chose the perfect time to deliver his first goal of the season as he came off the bench to rescue a win for anxious Celtic that could prove vital to the defence of their Scottish Premier League title.

Craig Beattie chose the perfect time to deliver his first goal of the season as he came off the bench to rescue a win for anxious Celtic that could prove vital to the defence of their Scottish Premier League title.

Martin O'Neill's side seemed certain to pay for squandering a two-goal lead until the 20-year-old striker struck a venomous 77th- minute shot that soothed nerves ahead of the last throw of the Champions' League dice on Tuesday night.

Celtic's catalogue of injury has already gnawed away at their Champions' League hopes, but the absence of Henri Camara, Chris Sutton - who will miss the midweek encounter with Shakhtar Donetsk - and Stanislav Varga underlined that the stretched playing resources were beg-inning to have an impact on their domestic ambitions too.

Aberdeen had gone to Parkhead last Wednesday and inflicted the first League defeat of the season on the Scottish champions, and it was clear throughout the first half at Fir Park that the physical and psychological toll had eaten away at their confidence. While Celtic's performance was nervy for much of that period, Motherwell approached their task with zest. Alex Burns squandered one chance after Steven Hammell's fine invention, and then Burns almost punished the attention-deficit syndrome of Bobo Balde to clip a cut-back that was destined to be finished off by David Clarkson until Jackie McNamara's acrobatic clearance.

It was 28 minutes before Celtic even managed to del-iver a ball into Motherwell's box, with Aiden McGeady's poor cross easily cleared. Bizarrely, after such a famine of scoring opportunities, both teams then had the ball in the net within a minute of each other as Clarkson and then Juninho found their efforts ruled out because of offside.

However, Celtic cast off their dreadful performance and snatched the lead against the run of play three minutes before half-time. Juninho and Stilian Petrov exchanged passes on the right touchline before the little Brazilian drove at the Motherwell defence with speed and skill, ignoring John Hartson's demand for a cut-back and instead picking out McGeady, whose side-foot finish from six yards uncorked a lot of relief from the travelling support.

The contest followed a similar pattern in the second half, with Motherwell twice coming close to an equaliser, but Celtic summoned up their best move of the game in the 65th minute to stretch the lead. A ruthless counterattack saw Hartson and Juninho link up in their own half before the Brazilian picked out McGeady on the far side. The teenager fed Hartson, who scooped the ball into the run of Petrov, who was bundled over by Phil O'Donnell. That allowed Alan Thompson coolly to send Marshall the wrong way with the penalty.

Motherwell struck back two minutes later with a searing 25-yard shot from Martyn Corrigan that gave them renewed heart, and barely another three minutes had elapsed before Motherwell earned a penalty of their own. Balde's habitual clumsiness saw him baulk Clarkson's run into the box, and Richie Foran sent Marshall the wrong way.

Celtic were on the verge of another costly stumble until Beattie came to the rescue 13 minutes from the end. McNamara was the architect with a fine run, but Beattie pounced on a mistake by Steven Craigan and rifled a right-foot shot beyond Gordon Marshall.

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