Celtic1 Motherwell 1
Kris Commons scored from the spot to give Celtic a 1-1 Premiership draw against Motherwell at Parkhead on a day Hoops manager Ronny Deila perhaps discovered a lack of depth to his squad.
Fir Park striker John Sutton opened the scoring in the 19th minute before missing a great chance to double the lead from six yards with the home team booed off at the interval.
Celtic skipper Scott Brown and Commons, two of the six players left out by Deila as he rang the changes, came on for the start of the second half with Brown earning a 67th-minute penalty which Commons converted.
The rejuvenated champions drove forward in search of the winner but could not find another way past a resolute Well defence to leave Celtic with one win in their last four league games and Deila’s 39th birthday celebrations flat.
After Thursday’s 2-2 Europa League draw with Salzburg and with Hearts due to visit in the League Cup next Wednesday, the Norwegian took the opportunity to utilise his squad.
Lukasz Zaluska was given a rare start in goal while midfielders Beram Kayal, Nir Bitton and Aleksandar Tonev, plus strikers Anthony Stokes and John Guidetti were also brought in with the Swede making his first start since signing on a loan deal from Manchester City.
Brown, Commons, Craig Gordon and Stefan Scepovic started on the bench while Stefan Johansen and Mubarak Wakaso were out altogether.
Zaine Francis-Angol and Fraser Kerr returned for the Fir Park side who were content to keep 10 men behind the ball in the opening stages which the Scottish champions dominated.
However, Well came close in the 12th minute when midfielder Iain Vigurs drove just wide from the edge of the box after Sutton set him up with a header.
The next time the visitors went up the park with any real purpose they took the lead.
When Craig Reid’s cross from the right sped to the front post Sutton forced himself in front of Hoops defender Jason Denayer to volley past Zaluska, stunning the home fans and probably the small band of Motherwell supporters too.
Moments later, with the shock of the goal still reverberating around the stadium, Well keeper Dan Twardzik made a decent save from Denayer’s 30-yard drive.
However, the Steelmen were growing in belief and should have added a second in the 27th minute when skipper Keith Lasley’s blocked shot from inside the box landed at the feet of the unmarked Sutton but he somehow failed to hit the target from six yards.
Celtic’s ultras-style fan group, the Green Brigade, were making their first appearance of the season in section 111 of the stadium and they tried to inspire the team and the rest of the Hoops fans but neither group responded too well.
In the 33rd minute Kayal’s drive from the edge of the box escaped the far post and five minutes from the break Virgil van Dijk got on the end of a Stokes cross only to see Twardzik make a brilliant save from his close-range header.
Brown and Commons replaced Kayal and Tonev respectively for the start of the second period and the home side immediately took a grip of the game again.
Hoops wideman Callum McGregor drew a fine save from Twardzik in the 56th minute as Motherwell camped at the edge of their own box repelling wave after wave of Celtic attacks.
A leveller seemed inevitable and it came when referee Brian Colvin pointed to the spot after Brown was pushed to the ground inside a packed box by Josh Law with Commons slamming the spot-kick past Twardzik.
The home side pushed hard for the winner and it became a game of attack versus defence.
A deflected shot by McGregor almost wrong-footed Twardzik before Stokes and Bitton both had efforts which missed the target.
At the other end, with two minutes remaining, Francis-Angol fired over from 14 yards to end a rare Well counter-attack which had the home fans holding their breath.
Twardik made another great save from van Dijk as the game entered three added minutes but Deila’s side ran eventually ran out of steam and ideas.