CELTIC returned to Ladbrokes Premiership action after their Betfred Cup final triumph over Aberdeen on Sunday with a potentially awkward away game against Motherwell at Fir Park.

The Scottish champions, who have a game in hand, were deposed as top flight leaders by Rangers at the weekend when the Ibrox club beat Hearts at Tynecastle.

So could they keep up the pressure on their city rivals or even reclaim top spot? It proved to be quite an evening.

A first-half Ryan Christie goal looked to have given the visitors the triumph they were looking for. But their hosts earned a deserved draw late on when Danny Johnson struck.


Brendan Rodgers made no fewer than seven changes to the Celtic starting line-up which had taken to the field three days earlier.

Out went Scott Bain, Mikael Lustig, Dedryck Boyata, James Forrest, Tom Rogic, Scott Sinclair and Odsonne Edouard and in came Craig Gordon, Cristian Gamboa, Jozo Simunovic, Scott Brown, Olivier Ntcham, Jonny Hayes and Leigh Griffiths.

Motherwell’s prospects of getting a result were seriously damaged when first Peter Hartley and then Liam Donnelly went off injured in the first 15 minutes.

They were replaced by Andy Rose and Adam Livingstone respectively. But the loss of centre half Hartley clearly unsettled the home side. They fell behind in the 13th minute.

Kieran Tierney supplied Christie from wide on the left touchline and his team mate controlled the ball with his right foot and prodded a shot beyond Mark Gillespie with his left.

Rodgers’s men should really have forged further ahead four minutes before half-time when Rose barged over Christie inside his penalty box. Leigh Griffiths stepped up to take the spot kick only to be denied by an outstanding one-handed save by Gillespie.

Rodgers took off Olivier Ntcham, who had looked uncomfortable out of position wide on the left, at half-time and put on Sinclair. He also removed Griffiths, who had to be helped off by a member of the Celtic medical team, and threw on Edouard in the 66th minute.

But his side failed to build on their lead. Motherwell were far better in the second-half than they had been in the first. Allan Campell tested Gordon with a long-range effort the goalkeeper dealt with easily and then Conor Sammon had an attempt held.

Johnson pounced with three minutes of regulation time and drilled an unstoppable shot beyond Gordon and into the bottom right corner to a huge cheer from the home support who were still inside the ground.

Stephen Robinson’s side merited a point for the way they dealt with the loss of key players and fought until the final whistle.


This has not been a particularly stellar season for the Fir Park club. Certainly, they have struggled to scale the heights of last season when they reached the final of both the Betfred Cup and the William Hill Scottish Cup.

They are too close to St Mirren and Dundee, the clubs in the bottom two spots, for their liking. But a 3-0 win at home over Aberdeen last month raised their spirits. And this battling display and well-earned point will do their confidence no harm at all.

If they can maintain this performance level they should move up the table to safety in the weeks ahead.


Both James Forrest of Celtic and Allan McGregor of Rangers have performed to an extremely high level on a consistent basis in the 2018/19 campaign.

But since coming on at half-time in the Betfred Cup semi-final against Hearts at Murrayfield back in October Christie has been every bit as good if not better.

Fresh from bagging the winner against Aberdeen on Sunday, he opened the scoring last night with an exquisite finish and then won a penalty.

The midfielder has established himself as a first choice player with both Celtic and Scotland in the past five weeks. He will be in no danger of dropping out of either side if he continues in this vein.


The sparkling performances of Callum McGregor in the deep-lying midfield role while Brown was out injured had led to suggestions that his captain may struggle to reclaim his place when he regained full fitness.

But, after making substitute’s appearances against Rosenborg in Norway last week and Aberdeen at the weekend, he returned to the side last night and was his usual assured self in the centre of the park.

He may be 33 now and in the final year of his contract, but he remains an important player and influential figure on and off the park for his club. He was not to blame for the dropped points.


Fireworks and smoke cannisters were set off and thrown onto the pitch by the ultra element among the Celtic support in the South Stand before kick-off, following the opening goal and in the second-half.

The local constabulary spent much of the first-half wading into the crowd to route out those responsible for actions which could seriously injure a spectator or player.

It is five years since the Parkhead club suspended 128 fans and relocated 250 season ticket holders for committing identical offences in at Fir Park.

Clearly, no lessons have been learned. The Parkhead club should do their utmost to identify the culprits and mete out similar punishment. A strong message must be sent out that such conduct is unacceptable and dangerous.