Celtic 2 Motherwell 1: Zurawski at the double to sink Well

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The Independent Football

Maciej Zurawski has been the man squeezed out by the impressive partnership developing between Kenny Miller and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, but the Polish striker took advantage of the Dutch forward's injury to ensure that Celtic extended their lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League.

Zurawski produced two finishes, one tame the other emphatic, to ensure that the champions profited from Heart of Midlothian's slip-up to move eight points ahead of their title rivals. "I have to give credit to Motherwell because they were good and what we did not need after Benfica was a team that was up for it," said Strachan.

Celtic's midweek success against Benfica had created a sense of anticipation with the Parkhead audience and Shunsuke Nakamura unveiled a host of tricks to unnerve the visitors and rouse the fans.

The Motherwell goalkeeper Colin Meldrum produced a nervous punch away, just underneath the bar, from one of the Japanese playmaker's early inswinging corners and Meldrum then produced another vital stop from Zurawski after a move inspired by Nakamura.

That pairing opened Motherwell up in the 16th minute to put Celtic in front. Nakamura perfectly killed a bobbling ball in the centre circle and then threaded a sublime pass into Zurawski's run in behind the visitors' defence. The Polish striker then stabbed the ball wide of Meldrum, who had come out of his area, and it was helped over the line by the back-tracking Stephen Craigan.

Motherwell, however, ought to have restored parity five minutes later when Richie Foran picked out Steven McGarry with a fine cross to the back post but the midfielder's diving header spun down into the turf and over the bar. Five minutes before the interval, the Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc denied Calum Elliot's fierce shot by touching it wide and then Shaun Maloney thought he had scored a second for the champions until learning that Miller had used a hand earlier in the move.

However, the second half saw Celtic's fluency evaporate. Motherwell coped comfortably with just about everything the champions created but they went further behind in the 66th minute and this time Zurawski's goal had little doubt attached to it.

Yet again, the architect was Nakamura, who clipped a delightful ball over the Motherwell defence for Zurawski to take in his stride with a clever touch before advancing into the box and steering a composed right-foot finish beyond Meldrum.

But unlike against Benfica, Motherwell found the net to set up a taut finale. Brian Kerr flighted in a fine free-kick in the 77th minute to the back post which was headed back across goal by Mark Reynolds for the predatory Scott McDonald to volley past Boruc from point-blank range. Celtic had to defend resolutely to protect their lead after that.