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Reo Hatate sends Celtic back to Premiership summit with win over Motherwell

Celtic’s Reo Hatate celebrates (Will Matthews/PA)
Celtic’s Reo Hatate celebrates (Will Matthews/PA)

Reo Hatate’s long-range strike sent Celtic back to the top of the cinch Premiership with a narrow 2-1 victory over Motherwell.

Kyogo Furuhashi netted from close range early on but Celtic gifted Motherwell a 36th-minute equaliser following a mix-up between Josip Juranovic and Joe Hart, who could not keep out the right-back’s pass back.

Hatate restored Celtic’s lead with a brilliant shot in the 64th minute but his loose pass led to a red card for Callum McGregor with a minute left as the Hoops captain brought down Ross Tierney.

The 10 men held out without any further scares to restore their two-point lead with a first win in four matches.

The champions would not have envisaged going into their next home league match in second place after demolishing Rangers 4-0 at Parkhead on September 3, but defeat against St Mirren before the international break allowed their city rivals to move top with a lunchtime win over Hearts.

Celtic again lined up with Moritz Jenz and Stephen Welsh in central defence in the absence of the injured Carl Starfelt and Cameron Carter-Vickers.

Joe Efford and Rolando Aarons were out for Motherwell with hamstring injuries and Carl Slattery was still absent but Ricki Lamie brushed off a knock to start.

Jota scuffed an early chance into Liam Kelly’s hands but Motherwell were generally defending diligently until the 15th minute when a simple move led to the opener.

McGregor ran into the left channel and played the ball outside to Jota, whose first-time cross was met by Matt O’Riley. Kelly could not hold the midfielder’s header and Furuhashi made sure the ball went over the line.

McGregor was soon off target from Jota’s cross before Motherwell almost had a sight of goal only for Barry Maguire to mis-control Paul McGinn’s cross in space eight yards out.

Juranovic rattled the bar with a 22-yard free-kick just before Connor Shields warmed Hart’s hands after Motherwell’s best move of the half.

The resulting corner led to the equaliser. Blair Spittal lofted the ball back into the box after Daizen Maeda headed away Sean Goss’ delivery and Juranovic chested it back towards goal, seemingly unaware Hart had vacated his line to go after it. The goalkeeper scrambled back but could not claw it away in time.

The Croatian nearly made amends after a one-two with Maeda but arrowed a shot just over and Hatate came closer with a 25-yard strike off the inside of the post. Furuhashi sent a diving header wide on the rebound.

Motherwell threatened from some set-pieces early in the second half and sections of the home support began to articulate their frustration.

Juranovic shot just over again and Furuhashi turned Sondre Solholm but the defender recovered with a last-ditch tackle.

The visitors were pushing men forward when they got the chance but were clinically punished for leaving Hatate spare as Celtic lined up for a corner. Jota spotted the Japanese midfielder 25 yards out and Hatate took a touch and fired into the far corner.

Celtic looked for a cushion but Furuhashi knocked substitute Liel Abada’s cross wide from close range and was denied by Kelly as he tried to go round the goalkeeper.

Motherwell manager Steven Hammell brought on attackers Stuart McKinstry, Louis Moult, Tierney and Josh Morris and his ambition almost paid off.

McKinstry had a fresh-air swipe after getting a sight of goal following a long throw, Maguire forced a decent save from Hart and Tierney latched on to Hatate’s loose pass before being hauled back by McGregor, who was shown a straight red card.

Morris was well over from the resulting 25-yard free-kick and Celtic came closest to scoring during five minutes of stoppage-time when Abada knocked a rebound wide from close range.