Sutton ensures no let-up in Celtic's title march

Celtic 2 - Motherwell 0
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Chris Sutton has displayed the relentless pulse of a metronome in the last two months to ensure that Celtic have stepped up the tempo in the Scottish Premier League title race and he did not miss a beat yesterday.

Chris Sutton has displayed the relentless pulse of a metronome in the last two months to ensure that Celtic have stepped up the tempo in the Scottish Premier League title race and he did not miss a beat yesterday.

The towering striker scored his sixth goal in seven games to seal the fate of toothless Motherwell and heap pressure on Rangers. Sutton's composed finish just before the hour mark opened up a six-point gap over the other half of the Old Firm, who face a daunting trip to Aberdeen today.

In fact, it was such a stroll in the Parkhead sun that even Juninho was given a cameo appearance late on. To be fair, it was only the return of Alan Thompson to the Celtic team following his suspension that relegated Juninho to the bench after his rare appearance in the starting line-up last week.

The tiny Brazilian has complained of being marginalised, but the truth is that he has been eclipsed by the rise of young Aiden McGeady.

The Celtic teenager promptly underlined this fact after just three minutes when he almost scored. Jackie McNamara's advance picked out Sutton, who in turn flicked the ball into the path of McGeady, who was poised to score before Motherwell's young full-back, Paul Quinn, produced a fine recovery to block the shot.

Precious little was seen of Motherwell as an attacking force in the first half. The only real threat came when Scott McDonald gathered Stephen Hammell's short corner and drilled a low shot just wide of the target from outside the box.

Celtic's monopoly of possession, organised by the excellent Stilian Petrov, failed to be rewarded with the customary catalogue of chances.

The champions were limited by Motherwell's fine defensive work, with only Sutton gaining a glimpse of goal after John Hartson had set him up with a tenacious slide to knock the ball into his partner's run, but Gordon Marshall, the Motherwell goalkeeper, superbly beat out Sutton's shot.

When Motherwell's barrier was finally pierced, after 32 minutes, it came in the shape of a counter-attack which exposed them at the halfway line. Thompson's hunger in the tackle was exploited by Hartson, who threaded a swift pass into space for Petrov to beat the offside trap.

The Bulgarian still had a lot of work to do and shrewdly cut inside Stephen Craigan, stumbling with the force of the challenge, but recovering his momentum to thrash a right-foot shot beyond Marshall.

There was little doubt about the outcome after that. Celtic played with patience rather than zest but that measured approached paid off with a second goal in the 57th minute.

Again the incision was made from an innocuous central position, as Thompson seized on McDonald's gift of possession in the centre circle and released Sutton, who advanced 50 yards and drew Marshall before steering a fine right-foot finish beyond the goalkeeper.

Marshall, though, remained defiant. He produced a remarkable save to deny Hartson, touching the striker's shot wide as Motherwell attempted damage limitation.

Comments