Brannan penalty denies Celtic full points

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Ged Brannan halted Celtic's march in the Scottish Premier League with a late penalty which earned Motherwell a point in a thrilling contest at Fir Park last night.

Ged Brannan halted Celtic's march in the Scottish Premier League with a late penalty which earned Motherwell a point in a thrilling contest at Fir Park last night.

Martin O'Neill's side missed the chance to capitalise fully on Rangers' troubles. They would do better to keep watch on Hibernian, who are now only three points behind them.

Motherwell's record last season as the only side to beat both Celtic and Rangers underlined why few teams enjoy coming to Fir Park. Yet the optimism which flowed from the large Celtic support within the ground indicated that they sensed a change taking place, with the weekend's events at Ibrox and their own fine run.

Alan Thompson could have sent those spirits soaring after just six minutes when he was all alone after the goalkeeper Steve Woods failed to hold Didier Agathé's shot. Henrik Larsson rolled the loose ball into Thompson's path but he missed the target from six yards. However, the former Aston Villa winger made amends eight minutes later with the corner which led to Celtic taking the lead.

Woods could not meet it, Larsson headed it back across the goal and his Swedish colleague, Johan Mjallby, bundled the ball in from close range.

Brannan fired a shot over as Motherwell attempted to get back into a game in which they had threatened occasionally. Stephen McMillan was closer with an effort from outside the area following a flicked-on corner but Motherwell finally equalised in the 23rd minute when John Spencer's run to the byline was cut out by Joos Valgaeren but the striker chipped the ball across a second time for Derek Adams' header to find the net. It was reward for Adams' earlier endeavour as he had twice previously caused Celtic problems with direct runs at goal; first being checked by Mjallby's suspiciously strong block and then by Valgaeren's brave intervention.

Motherwell went ahead in the 53rd minute when Spencer flighted a perfect corner which Lee McCulloch guided past Johnathan Gould with a fierce header. However, Celtic responded and within four minutes they had levelled the score once more. Thompson's free-kick was met by Larsson, who steered it back across the goal and Valgaeren finished it off.

Celtic had a 'goal' disallowed just after the hour when Mjallbby's close-range header appears to cross the line before Martryn Corrigan cleared it, but referee Hugh Dallas ruled otherwise. There was no doubt about Jackie McNamara's goal in the 72nd minute which restored Celtic's lead, a cool shot after a set-up from Larsson, but Motherwell restored parity 10 minutes from the end when Brannan scored from the penalty spot after Mjallby had fouled Don Goodman.

Motherwell (4-4-2): Woods; Corrigan, Kemble, Strong, Hammell; Adams, Brannan, McMillan, Elliott; Spencer, McCulloch. Substitutes: Goodman, Townsley, Connolly, Leitch, McLean.

Celtic (3-5-2): Gould; Mjallby, Boyd, Valgaeren; McNamara, Lambert, Petrov, Thompson, Petta; Agathé, Larsson. Substitutes: Douglas, Stubbs, Johnson, Healy, Moravcik.

Referee: H Dallas.

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