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Ugly win at ´Well keeps Celtic titles hopes alive

SoccerNews in Scottish Premier League 4 May 2008

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Gordon Strachan has ditched all notions of demanding fancy play from Celtic after a “common sense” 2-1 win at Motherwell Saturday boosted his side's late title charge.

With only two games left to play in the Scottish Premier League the reigning champions stretched their lead over Rangers to eight points, although the Ibrox side have four games in hand.

The destiny of the SPL trophy seems likely to be shaped by Rangers – who, in the wake of qualifying for the UEFA Cup final in midweek, face Hibernian at Easter Road on Sunday hoping to avoid a slip-up.

Not for the first time, Celtic fans will be hoping a club from the capital can throw a spanner into the works of their Old Firm rivals.

Strachan now has a realistic chance of becoming the first Celtic manager since the time of legendary boss Jock Stein to win the title for a third consecutive year.

And the Celtic manager, who had been under fire in recent months following a dip in Celtic's form, realises that results rather than performances matter most as the season reaches a climax.

Strachan said: “At Celtic you always have to win every week but that's especially true just now. Beating Motherwell was a big result for us and that's what is important to us just now.

“People talk about the game having to be played in a beautiful fashion but that doesn't really matter at this stage in the season.

“All people care about is results. Although we will continue to try and play in a beautiful fashion the game on Saturday was a great example of common sense football.”

Celtic were made to work hard for their three points.

Motherwell's Keith Lasley had the first effort on goal when his left-foot shot from the edge of the penalty box was deflected narrowly wide, with Celtic's Polish goalkeeper Artur Boruc rooted to the spot.

In the 37th minute Boruc was forced into meaningful action for the first time in the match, diving to his left to save Marc Fitzpatrick's low shot from 18 yards.

On the hour mark Motherwell deservedly opened the scoring when Chris Porter headed past Boruc.

Barely a minute later Celtic pulled level when Australian striker Scott McDonald nodded Shunsuke Nakamura's cross beyond Motherwell's rookie goalkeeper Luke Daniels.

And in the 79th minute the Parkhead side secured all three points when substitute Georgios Samaras stooped to head Barry Robson's corner into the corner of the net.

Motherwell almost snatched a share of the points in the final minute when Stephen Craigan's downward header was brilliantly pushed past the post by Boruc.

McDonald has now scored 30 goals in his first season with the Hoops – since joining from Motherwell last summer.

The striker was delighted to have helped secure another important victory against his old side and is now hoping Rangers slip up in their final matches.

McDonald said: “It was a difficult game for us and we knew Motherwell would make it hard for us. We know we have to win every game and I didn't want our title hopes to end at Fir Park.

“Hopefully this result will put the pressure on Rangers. We know we need other teams to do us a favour but all we can do is concentrate on ourselves and keep winning.

“If Rangers do go on to win the championship then they will have deserved it as they've been very consistent this season but we're not giving up hope and will keep going to the end.”

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