JAMIE Murphy was handed the captain’s armband as he made his final appearance for Motherwell, but there was no happy ending to his story.
A missed penalty by Tom Hateley and a late Gary Hooper strike means ’Well continue to look for their first win at Celtic Park since April 2008.
Murphy and full back Steven Hammell were the only survivors from the team that day and both found themselves in slightly unfamiliar positions as Stuart McCall sprang some tactical surprises.
Top goalscorer Michael Higdon was left on the bench as the trickery and legs of Murphy and Henrik Ojamaa were preferred up front, while Hammell found himself on the left of a back three with Simon Ramsden and Fraser Kerr.
While all the focus was on Murphy’s farewell, it might also have been Kerr’s last appearance in a ’Well shirt as he returns to Birmingham City at the end of his loan spell.
Despite bolstering their defensive numbers, Motherwell found the ball in their net after just two minutes, but Georgios Samaras was flagged narrowly offside.
At times in the opening exchanges the visitors’ goal appeared under siege with every player bar Fraser Forster in the ’Well half.
Darren Randolph pulled off a brilliant save to deny Hooper from point blank range and then tipped over a Charlie Mulgrew free kick.
Hateley was deployed to sit on the influential Kris Commons and eventually ’Well started getting back into the game.
Usual captain Keith Lasley played in his stand-in for the day, but with Efe Ambrose providing pressure Murphy fired wildly over and then had another weak effort from the edge of the box that Forster saved comfortably.
Would third time be the charm as Murphy dribbled away from Beram Kayal with ease? Unfortunately not as, with just Forster to beat, Murphy failed to put the necessary curl on his shot and it went wide.
Celtic regained their composure and only Kerr clearing off the line denied Samaras. Then Randolph had to get down sharply to save from the same player.
Right on half time Ambrose had a glorious chance to score after Randolph allowed Victor Wanyama’s header to slip from his grasp, but the Nigerian hammered the ball over the unguarded goal.
At the start of the second half Zaine Francis-Angol set up Murphy for another chance, but this time a pained Ambrose’s anatomy was in the way and the action went straight up the other end where Randolph had to tip over Wanyama’s attempt to chip him.
Celtic showed their intent by replacing defensive midfielder Kayal with striker Tony Watt, but it was ’Well who had a great chance to go in front as Kelvin Wilson tripped Murphy in the box on 76 minutes.
After a long delay which saw Forster booked for refusing to stand on his line, Hateley stepped up watched in anguish as the ’keeper dived to his right to push the penalty wide.
This buoyed the Hoops and just three minutes later Samaras sent a low cross in from the left and HOOPER knocked in the winner.
In the last minute Lasley had a free header from Hateley’s corner, but his effort bounced on to the ground and wide and at the end of a game they had started so brightly, Celtic could count themselves fortunate to collect all three points.
Celtic: Forster, Matthews, Izaguirre, Ambrose (Rogne 84), Wilson, Samaras, Commons (McGeouch 82), Mulgrew, Kayal (Watt 72), Wantama, Hooper. Subs not used: Zakuska, Lassad, McCourt, Chambers.
Motherwell: Randolph, Hammell, Law, Hateley, Humphrey, Ojamaa (McHugh 86), Murphy, Lasley, Ramsden, Kerr, Francis-Angol (Daley 86). Subs not used: Hollis, Higdon, Carswell, Hetherington, Cummins.
Referee: Steven McLean.