Thursday 21 September 2017

'Fantastic' Maloney inspires Hoops victory

Motherwell 0
Celtic 1

Neil Lennon hailed Shaun Maloney after he won the penalty that gave Celtic a hard-earned win at Motherwell.

Daryl Murphy stroked home the 73rd-minute spot-kick after Steven Saunders sent Maloney tumbling and was red-carded. Celtic manager Lennon was delighted that the Hoops had managed to bounce back from their Europa Cup exit and singled Maloney out for praise.

"I thought Maloney was fantastic once he went through the middle," Lennon said. "We were resolute at the back, the midfield were strong and athletic and the front men did great."

Asked if he might be looking to do business before the transfer window closes, Lennon added: "We're hoping to bring a couple more players in."

Motherwell boss Craig Brown had no complaints about the outcome. "The marginally better team won the game. They had more attempts on goal and more of the play," he said.

Positive

Maloney welcomed Celtic's win after their midweek woes in Europe. He said: "With the disappointment of midweek, I think any way we could get a win today was going to be a positive result. We knew we had to keep the pressure on and it was really important win for us today."

A much-changed Celtic side had the better of the SPL clash but struggled to get past Darren Randolph before the influential Maloney won a penalty from Saunders.

Following the dismissal of Saunders and Murphy's spot-kick, Motherwell failed to recover from the blow on 73 minutes. Lennon made five changes to the team that were thrashed 4-0 in Holland at the hands of Utrecht on Thursday as he handed debuts to Fraser Forster and Emilion Izaguirre.

On-loan Newcastle goalkeeper Forster had very little to do while Honduras left-back Izaguirre looked agile in defence and attack. Glenn Loovens, Maloney and Murphy also came in and Efrain Juarez, Jos Hooiveld and Beram Kayal dropped to the bench, with Marc Antoine-Fortune having left for West Brom since Celtic threw away their two-goal lead to exit before the group stages.

That defeat was the third cup clash Celtic have lost since Lennon took over, but he continued his perfect SPL record with an 11th consecutive victory against a Motherwell side who looked jaded following their European exit against Odense, when they did everything but score in a 1-0 loss.

Elsewhere, Limerick hero Stephen O'Flynn has admitted his side got out of jail on Friday against Sporting Fingal. But the Mallow man believes that Pat Scully's men can cause a shock at Jackman Park tonight if they approach the FAI Ford Cup replay as they did the second half at Morton Stadium.

Down 2-0 away from home to the holders, the First Division side battled back and although they were down to 10 men after Shane Tracy saw red, O'Flynn pounced for an injury-time equaliser to force the replay.

"I thought we robbed them," O'Flynn said. "If they had a bit more of a clinical edge they could have had the game well and truly wrapped up. I said it before we came up here, they are a better footballing team by a mile.

"We pushed on in the second half, we didn't do ourselves justice in the first half and I think a few of the lads probably froze. I think they thought they had the game won at that stage and we kept battering away and were lucky to get away with a replay.

"I think (we are capable of getting a result). It's all about belief. I said it out there myself, if we keep believing then we can get a goal and for a long, long time it didn't look like coming.

"We still haven't done ourselves justice. You can look at it and say, we got the draw, the replay. But we need to push on and get it right."

Sporting boss Liam Buckley was philosophical about the result, with the knowledge his side's Cup defence is still alive countering his disappointment.

"To let them back in against ten men is disappointing," he said. "But we're still in the Cup. If it takes a replay in every round to get to the Aviva Stadium, we won't mind.

"There's no easy rounds in the Cup. They are doing well in the First Division, but that said, I thought we did enough in the first half and for us to take our foot off the pedal so much in the second half is disappointing."

Irish Independent

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