Celtic 3 Motherwell 0: McDonald hat-trick puts Well in a hole

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The Independent Online

It cost Celtic just £750,000 to turn Scott McDonald from their nemesis into their own assasin but if his goals deliver the Scottish Premier League title his value will be priceless. The summer acquisition from Motherwell killed off his old team with a ruthless hat-trick yesterday.

McDonald scored three for the second time this season to take his total to 11 and make him the top marksman in the SPL. "That is why Celtic bought him and that's why we could not afford to keep him," said Motherwell's manager, Mark McGhee.

The previous seven days had been a source of deep disappointment for Celtic, with defeat in the Old Firm derby followed by Benfica's late winner in the Champions' League match in Lisbon.

Motherwell habitually contribute to Celtic's frustration and this season, in the care of McGhee, they have earned a reputation for attractive football. McGhee used a 4-3-3 formation yesterday that saw one of the front three, Ross McCormack, almost beat Artur Boruc with a dipping shot in the fourth minute. Twelve minutes later McCormack beat John Kennedy and delivered a cutback that begged to be finished. Stephen McManus cleared in front of goal.

It took Celtic a while to make an impact, Chris Killen seeing his shot beaten away by Graeme Smith. The Motherwell keeper then eclipsed that save by using his feet to stop Killen's downward header. The theme of goalkeeping excellence was maintained until the interval – Boruc acrobatically touched Steven McGarry's chip over the bar and Smith produced an unorthodox save, using his foot to divert Gary Caldwell's header. However, from the subsequent corner Shunsuke Nakamura's delivery was met by McDonald, who planted a header past Smith.

The goal lifted a weight off Celtic's shoulders and in the second half confidence flowed, Aiden McGeady's curling shot thumping off the crossbar. However, nothing could stop McDonald. He doubled the lead after a sublime pass by Lee Naylor beyond Stephen Craigan allowed him to steer a composed finish beyond Smith.

Celtic then cut loose, Nakamura twice spurning fine opportunities before McDonald showed how it was done. He drew a foul inside the box from Craigan and then sent Smith the wrong way with the penalty.

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