Late strike sees Motherwell grab a point

Darren Smith's dramatic injury-time equaliser gave Motherwell a deserved point against SPL leaders Celtic at Fir Park today.

Darren Smith's dramatic injury-time equaliser gave Motherwell a deserved point against SPL leaders Celtic at Fir Park today.

The impressive Derek Riordan grabbed his first Celtic goal after 36 minutes on his first league start for the Hoops after the champions had dominated the opening stages.

Artur Boruc made a string of saves to deny Motherwell as they pressed hard for an equaliser but Smith forced the ball home after Scott McDonald had again caused the Hoops problems.

Teenage defender Darren O'Dea came in for broken leg victim Bobo Balde while Kenny Miller and Neil Lennon also returned for the Hoops.

Motherwell made three changes as Jim Paterson and David Clarkson returned from suspension and Steven McGarry earned a recall.

Clarkson fired a yard over after turning on the edge of the box while Riordan came just as close at the other end in an exciting start.

But Lennon and Thomas Gravesen began to control possession for the visitors.

Miller beat Mark Reynolds to a long ball before shooting well wide under pressure from the young defender.

Shunsuke Nakamura won a free-kick 30 yards out but Graeme Smith comfortably held his curling effort.

Moments later the Japanese midfielder chipped a ball over the top which Riordan hooked just past the post.

Motherwell did not threaten again until midway through the half when McDonald burst down the left and cut the ball back for Clarkson, who mis-kicked from eight yards.

That chance lifted the hosts and McManus had to stretch to stop McDonald getting on the end of Martyn Corrigan's low cross.

Riordan was first to a cross from Maciej Zurawski but Graeme Smith got down well to smother his right-footed shot.

McDonald, whose double cost Celtic the title 18 months ago, again caused hearts to flutter in the away support as he broke down the left and played the ball back to Richie Foran, who fluffed his shot.

Riordan had twice caused panic with dangerous crosses from his advanced position wide on the left.

And the former Hibernian man slotted into an empty net after Smith could not hold Nakamura's 25-yard drive.

Moments later Boruc kept Celtic ahead with a magnificent double save.

Clarkson engineered room inside the box but could not direct the ball wide of the Pole and the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant diving save to divert Foran's volley on the rebound.

Motherwell began positively after the break but McGarry twice wasted good opportunities to test Celtic's defence from the right channel.

And Boruc stood up well to save from McDonald as the Aussie striker stabbed towards goal after running on to Clarkson's through-ball.

Again McDonald broke and played the ball inside for the improving Clarkson, whose powerful 25-yard strike was beaten away by Boruc.

Motherwell continued to look the more threatening side and Clarkson just failed to collect a brilliant Foran through-ball after the Irishman side-stepped Gravesen.

Foran soon saw his curling effort comfortably held from a difficult angle.

Craig Beattie replaced Zurawski for his first game for three months and curled a low shot just wide from 20 yards.

Beattie looked rusty as he spooned his shot well over the bar after being played through by Gravesen.

Motherwell refused to let Celtic settle on the ball and substitute Darren Smith saw his diving header cleared off the line by McManus after Boruc had dropped Foran's high ball under pressure from McDonald.

The Bhoys finally looked like they had killed off the hosts' challenge and Gravesen almost made it 2-0 in the 89th minute when his 20-yard drive bounced off the right post.

But Darren Smith forced the ball home on the line after McDonald latched onto a slack pass by Paul Telfer and slid the ball past Boruc.

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