Motherwell 2 Celtic 4: Samaras turns on the style for Celtic

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The Independent Football

If Europe was on the minds of either of these sides, it did not show. Motherwell and Celtic served up six goals yesterday in an encounter that must have had the watching spies from Aalborg and Nancy pondering about the energy levels in the Scottish Premier League.

Gordon Strachan dropped four key players after the defeat by Rangers a fortnight ago. He was rewarded with a display in which Celtic swept their hosts aside with four goals in the first half that will restore equilibrium before Wednesday's Champions'League match against the Danes.

Motherwell face their French opponents in the Uefa Cup 24 hours later, and if they looked shell-shocked by the onslaught that saw Georgios Samaras net twice, along with Shaun Maloney and Scott McDonald, then second-half replies from John Sutton and David Clarkson restored some pride.

"That was the best I have ever seen Celtic here," Stephen Craigan, Motherwell's captain, said. "It was even better than the days when Henrik Larsson was with them and they moved the ball about so slickly that half-time could not come quick enough for us. We will be tighter in France, that's for sure."

Mark McGhee's team were undone within eight minutes, by which time Celtic had eased into a two-goal lead. Maloney netted his first goal since returning from Aston Villa when he profited from a surge down the right and low cross by Scott Brown in the fifth minute. Three minutes later, Samaras cut in from the right to produce a solo effort worthy of any stage.

Motherwell fell further behind in the 24th minute as McDonald, the former Fir Park favourite, spun away from his marker to gather Mark Wilson's throw-in and lobbed Smith from 14 yards.

Maloney hit the bar with a dipping free-kick before Samaras struck Celtic's fourth goal in the 40th minute, completing a seven-man move down the left which peaked when Lee Naylor's pass to McDonald was backheeled into the path of Samaras, who surged into the box before hitting a right-foot finish past Smith.

Motherwell recovered after the interval, with Sutton producing a finish of some style as he volleyed past Artur Boruc inthe 55th minute. Three minutes later, Clarkson slipped a shot under Boruc.