In a notable contrast with the pattern across the 3-0 dismantling of Rangers by Ange Postecoglou’s men the previous midweek, on Sunday at Fir Park the cinch Premiership leaders retained their intensity post interval following a three-goal first half flurry. They did so through swapping in Jota, James Forrest, Matt O’Riley, Josip Juranovic and Nir Bitton for Liel Abada, Giorgos Giakoumakis, Reo Hatate, Greg Taylor and Callum. Kelly, with tongue in cheek, confessed it didn’t exactly thrill to witness Celtic ablity to turn to such reinforcements.
“It’s not ideal when the players they have on the bench come on. You feel like going off yourself,” he said with a rueful smile. They are a brilliant team with a lot of quality. You see the subs they bring on and they’ve still got some top players [in Kyogo Furuhashi and David Turnbull] who are still injured and weren’t involved today. It was a good day for them and a poor day for us.”
Celtic put fourth-placed Motherwell through an excruciating examination that Kelly was generally able to rationalise, the focus now on looking ahead to his side’s trip to Dundee United on Wednesday. That said, the 26-year-old appeared extremely harsh on himself over the first of Tom Rogic’s two first-half goals in the encounter. A strike that came from the Australian curling into the right hand corner of the keeper’s net with a majestic contact from the edge of the area.
‘We were up against a really good side who were probably a bit much for us,” he said. “In the first half we tried to give it a go and they picked us apart. There were a couple of goals that we could have done better with ourselves. Personally, I’m a wee bit disappointed with the second goal. I should probably save that. But I’m not sure it actually impacts the outcome. I think Celtic were well deserved winners. We just need to take our medicine and focus on Wednesday night now. Celtic are capable of doing that to most teams. But you like to be in the game. We tried to have a go but they punished us. They were too good for the press we tried to put on. We got caught in between most things. They have top players and the punished us.”
Motherwell will now take to the Tannadice pitch on the back of a five-game winless league run. No cause for real concern, it may not be the same for the fact they will face up to former team-mate Tony Watt when the striker is yet to net since moving to United from Fir Park as the league’s leading scorer three weeks ago. “You are trying to kill me here, aren’t you?” Kelly said of the possible implications that anomaly surely will soon be put to bed. “Tony is a top player. You saw that with us in the first half of the season. Having watched the highlights of Dundee United’s games, he’s been involved in a lot of the.attacking play. That’s no surprise. I’m sure the goals will come for him but hopefully not on Wednesday night against us.”