There were two matches in the SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership on Wednesday night.
Motherwell 1-1 Celtic
Stephen Robinson’s high-flying ‘Well side came mightily close to ending Celtic’s 65-match unbeaten run, but a late penalty was to spoil the party at Fir Park.
It was the hosts who had the first chance of the game but Carl McHugh headed wide from a corner. Leigh Griffiths had an effort blocked before Brendan Rodgers suffered an early blow.
On-loan Manchester City winger Patrick Roberts picked up an injury which meant he had to come off the field of play. His replacement was Australian international, Tom Rogic.
Callum McGregor had two quick-fire attempts before Scott Brown saw an effort blocked on 23 minutes. Rogic was next to try his luck but his shot was high and wide.
The Steelmen were putting their bodies on the line as another last ditch challenge saw McGregor denied again before defender Dedryck Boyata fired over from inside the area following a set-piece.
In a half dominated by the Hoops, it was Motherwell who had the chance to open the scoring but Richard Tait’s effort from outside the area didn’t trouble Craig Gordon.
McGregor dragged a shot wide before full-back Kieran Tierney tested Carson in the home sides goal, as the teams went in all-square at the break.
Andy Rose came on for Deimantas Petravicius at the break as Robinson looked to find a way through the Celts defence but it was his own side who were clinging on for dear life.
Griffiths and then James Forrest had efforts blocked once more by opposing players before Tierney had another dig at goal which didn’t test Carson this time.
McGregor made Carson work once more but the Englishman continued to foil the Premiership leaders. In a rare foray forward, Louis Moult couldn’t add another goal to his impressive Motherwell tally as the game reached the hour mark.
McGregor and Griffiths continued to torment the ‘Well rearguard but the scoreline remained 0-0. Craig Tanner came on for Elliot Frear as Robinson looked for some fresh legs in the final stage of this encounter.
The former Plymouth man made an instant impression but his header went wide as the hosts grew in confidence. Tanner was again involved as he forced Gordon into a save with 18 minutes remaining.
Scott Sinclair came on for Stuart Armstrong as a frustrated Celtic looked to find the breakthrough. Rogic missed the target again before Tierney hoped for third time lucky, only to be foiled by the in-form shot-stopper, Carson.
Sandwiched in between those two chances was Motherwell’s final switch of the evening with captain McHugh being replaced by Bowman. Almost immediately after, the hosts took the lead after Swedish internationalist Mikael Lustig scored an own goal on 78 minutes.
The unfortunate defender was then taken off as Rodgers pushed everyone forward. Odsonne Edouard came on to replace the full-back, with the youngster on-loan from PSG looking to impress in a rare appearance for the attacker.
Scott Sinclair had an effort saved but wasn’t to be denied for long as the former Chelsea star equalised to save the day for the Hoops. McGregor was fouled in the area by Andy Rose and it was the Celts number 11 who made the score 1-1 with just two minutes of the 90 remaining.
McGregor tried his luck one last time but Carson was up to task as Robinson’s men gain a vital point. Rodgers’ side came close to their first domestic defeat under the Northern Irishman but the late penalty call by referee Willie Colum saves the blushes of the current Premiership champions for another day.
Rangers 3-0 Aberdeen
It was a dominant and convincing win for Graeme Murty’s side, who claw themselves to within three points of the Dons with the two sides set to meet again at Pittodrie on Sunday.
It was a feisty encounter with both sides having early chances from the start. James Tavernier flashed a ball across the six-yard-box within 30 seconds that Josh Windass was within inches of scoring from before Greg Tansey shot wide at the other end as McInnes’ side looked to take control.
However, on 7 minutes, Andrew Dallas was quick to point to the spot after Tansey fouled Jason Holt inside the area. The responsibility was left to Tavernier, with the English right-back making no mistakes, firing low and hard down the middle to open the scoring for the hosts.
Carlos Pena forced Joe Lewis into a good save, with the goalkeeper tipping the Mexican’s 20-yard strike over the bar. Then, at the other end, Stevie May was denied by Fotheringham before Scott McKenna nodded Tansey’s corner wide.
Josh Windass was set through on goal by Ross McCrorie and it sent Ibrox into cheer once more as the attacker slotted the ball home, only to see the linesman’s flag had been raised. The Gers weren’t to be silenced for long, however, as Pena slotted home from close-range after being unmarked inside the area from a Jason Holt pull-back.
Tavernier almost made it 3-0 as Aberdeen struggled to contain their league rivals at Ibrox. Lewis stood up well to deny the marauding defender before play switched quickly to the other end; May was found at the near post from a low Considine cross but the striker prodded the ball wide of target.
McInnes had seen enough and made an early substitution. With 42 minutes on the clock, Tansey was to depart, to be replaced by former Celtic winger, Gary Mackay-Steven.
The Scot had an immediate impact as he was picked out on the left: he burst into the area, beating Tavernier for pace, but as he went to strike, shanked his shot well wide of target. Appeals for a penalty were turned down, with the newly-introduced Don being booked less than 60 seconds after coming on by Dallas for dissent after being enraged at the claim for a spot-kick.
The visitors new the next goal was crucial, with Anthony O’Connor having an early try at goal as the second-half got underway but the midfielder dragged his effort wide of target.
Danny Wilson had an effort saved from a Tavernier corner before Ryan Christie – on loan from Celtic – fired wide at the other end. Jason Holt and Kenny Miller had shots blocked before Kari Arnason shot wide, with the game becoming open and stretched.
With the game spicing up, players on either side picked up cautions – one went to Christie who would later rue this. As the play continued, it was the Dons number 22 who was next to try his luck at goal but his stabbed left-footed effort lacked power and, in the end, saw Foderingham save with ease.
Daniel Candeias replaced Carlos Pena to try freshen up the hosts attack but it was full-back Tavernier who put the game beyond all doubt on 70 minutes, firing past Lewis from close-range after being picked out by Windass.
Aberdeen kept plugging away, with captain Graeme Shinnie firing over. McInnes tried to keep the forward momentum going, bringing on another attack in Greg Stewart, with defender Arnason departing. Adam Rooney then came on for the injured Gary Mackay-Steven before the Dons’ night was compounded even further.
Ryan Christie dived in on Ross McCrorie as the Scotland international tried to win the ball back, but, having gone through the back of the Gers youngster, there was only one thing coming – a second booking by Dallas, meaning a red card and a suspension for the attacking midfielder.
Eduardo Herrera came on for Kenny Miller while youngster Ryan Hardie also made a late substitute appearance, replacing Windass as Murty rotated his forward options.
No more shots were to be had as Rangers eased to their first victory in three matches while the Dons head home knowing that their lead in second is getting smaller and smaller, with the managerless Gers now only 3 points behind Aberdeen. Sunday’s Premiership encounter at Pittodrie will surely be another cracker after tonight’s proceedings.