Scottish Premiership Matchweek 12 Rundown
Matchweek 12 had a lot of action with late drama, 5 penalties and a total of 13 goals from 5 games this weekend. It was a big weekend for Motherwell, Rangers and Hibs who all came away with valuable victories, whilst Celtic's poor run of form continued against Aberdeen. Dundee United shared a point with hosts St Johnstone in a scoreless draw that wasn't one for the ages. As the action is over for another weekend, here is a full rundown of this weekend's action.
Motherwell 4-0 Ross County
Motherwell got back to Premiership action after 4 weeks sitting out with a resounding 4-0 victory over Ross County, moving the Steelmen up to 8th in the table. The hosts last two league games have both been postponed due to opposition teams issues with COVID but did not seem to show any signs of ring rust.
The early stages saw Motherwell forced into an early change, Northern Ireland international Trevor Carson being the casualty. The 'Well keeper rushed out to head a through ball clear but tweaked his left knee on the landing, leading to a debut for Aaron Chapman in goal.
Motherwell took the lead shortly after the change as Tony Watt broke the deadlock in the 37th minute. Motherwell left-back Nathan McGinley was offered far too much time on the left side as he whipped an excellent cross onto the edge of the 6-yard box where Watt edged ahead of Alex Iacovitti and was on hand to finish on the volley. This was Watt's first league goal since the 4th of March, in a 4-1 win over Ross County last season, ending a run of 8 games without a goal in league competition.
Watt and Iacovitti were soon the major factors in Motherwell's second goal, with the Staggies defender giving away a poor penalty 10 minutes after half time. Whether there was contact or not is questionable, although, the way Iacovitti dived into the challenge and didn't touch the ball left referee Craig Napier with no choice other than to award a penalty. Mark O'Hara stepped up and sent County keeper Ross Doohan the wrong way from 12 yards, his second penalty of the season following Liam Donnelly's absence.
Ross County were almost back in the game shortly after as Ross Stewart's headed effort was cleared off the line by Tony Watt who was making himself useful at both sides of the pitch. Stewart headed wide from another corner before missing a glorious chance following some good play from County. A well-worked piece of play saw Stewart run onto a flick-on from Michael Gardyne but the 24-year old narrowly put the ball wide from 6 yards following pressure from Mark O'Hara.
Only two minutes later, Stewart and Ross County would rue those chances as it was soon 3-0. A deep corner from Liam Poloworth found Declan Gallagher who headed the ball back into the 6-yard box and allowing substitute Callum Lang to score with his first touch of the game.
Devante Cole rounded out a great afternoon for Stephen Robinson's side as he made it 4-0 in the 72nd minute. A goal kick was flicked on from Tony Watt as Cole managed to beat Coll Donaldson to the ball before speeding away from the centre back and firing home emphatically. A simple piece of route one football that gave Cole a goal on his second Motherwell debut.
It wasn't to be Ross Stewart's day as yet another header from the forward was cleared off the line again, this time by Stephen O'Donnell. Motherwell held on for clean sheet and a very deserved three points.
Talking Points: County's Passive Defending & Wonderful Watt
Ross County's defensive performance last weekend would have given manager Stuart Kettlewell hope coming into this weekend's game, with a shut out against the league's third-highest goalscorers Hibernian. Frustratingly for Kettlewell, his side could not maintain a similar level of performance as they conceded some very poor goals this weekend.
Steven Naismith described the Ross County defence as passive and it was certainly true for 3 of the goals. The first saw Tony Watt get ahead of his marker far too easily, whilst Motherwell's third goal saw the ball treacle back into a danger area with no County players reacting to the ball. The final goal is the worst culprit due to how simple and easily Motherwell broke through from a goal kick.
Ross County had severe defensive issues last season, conceding an average of 2 goals per game (60 in 30 games) and this season shows only the slightest of improvement so far. The Staggies currently have let in 20 goals within 12 games and as the bottom end of the Premiership table looks set to be tighter than ever, they will need big improvement fast.
A major thorn in the side of Ross County was Tony Watt who was finally able to repay Stephen Robinson's faith with a goal and two assists. Robinson has given game time to a host of different forwards so far this season but has only seen them return a single goal before Saturday's game. Goals for Watt, Lang and Cole will do wonders for the players' confidence and could be exactly what these players need to get going this season. Watt was the star performer for Motherwell on the day, with the striker giving a tireless performance and reaping the rewards.
Kilmarnock 0-1 Hibernian
Killie were denied a 4th successive win on the bounce as Jack Ross' Hibernian side regained third spot in the league table. A Kevin Nisbet penalty in the first half made the difference as the former Dunfermline man netted his 7th goal of the season.
A competitive start saw Joe Newell hit the side netting with a lovely volleyed effort before Chris Burke was be denied a penalty against Paul Hanlon, with the winger being deemed offside beforehand.
Hibs controversially won a penalty for themselves as Clevid Dikamona appeared to foul Christian Doidge, at least accordingly so to the nearby linesman. Dikamona misjudged a long clearance allowing Doidge to knick the ball ahead of the Congolese defender, with the former Hearts man producing the slightest of touches to bring the Welshman down. The foul looked to have been outside the box and incredibly soft but referee Colin Steven awarded the visitors a spot-kick.
Killie who had benefitted from a poor refereeing decision the previous week against Livingston were now on the other end as Kevin Nisbet stepped up and slotted the ball home on the 27-minute mark.
An unfortunate landing saw the aforementioned Dikamona stretchered off 5 minutes before half time, with Stuart Findlay replacing the defender.
Kilmarnock would press forward with Chris Burke delivering dangerous crosses into the box that Killie were unable to take advantage of. The Ayrshire side went closest from a corner where the ball fell to Greg Kiltie, with the winger's shot being blocked on the line by Kevin Nisbet.
Burke continued to put threatening balls into the box but the likes of Nicke Kabamba could not find a way to get on the end of it and trouble Ofir Marciano. Hibs adapted to soak up pressure and hit Killie on the break, with Stevie Mallan hitting wide after being allowed to drive toward goal unchallenged.
The best chance from the rest of the game came again from Hibs, as a wonderful piece of individual play from Joe Newell was denied by the diving Danny Rogers in the Killie goal. Hibs held onto their lead for a valuable three points on the road against an inform Killie side.
Talking Point: Solid Hibs Grind Out Win
The likes of Kevin Nisbet and Christian Doidge has received a lot of the plaudits this season but the highlight for Jack Ross will be how his defence performed in this tough fixture.
Killie were limited to very few clear chances as Hibs showed a great deal of character and grit to grind out a great result. Ross' side were compact throughout the second half and looked to break on Killie as they hunted for an equaliser. Hibs' midfield were excellent at staying tight and forcing Killie to make mistakes, with Kiltie's chance in the first half the only real danger they faced the whole game. With his new signings, Ross really has transformed this Hibs team and will be pleased at how they earned the win without playing particularly great going forward.
St Johnstone 0-0 Dundee United
Neither team were able to make the breakthrough at McDiarmid Park as a goalless encounter saw St Johnstone and Dundee United draw for the second time this season.
Marc McNulty made his first start for United since joining and could have opened the scoring early on, hitting over after fluffing a volley from a Lawrence Shankland cross. United would try their luck from far out on a couple of occasions, with McNulty and Shankland taking speculative efforts that didn't come close to threatening Zander Clark in goal.
Stevie May had a good chance to make it three goals in two games but wasn't able to find a composed finish after being picked out by Liam Gordon. May took the long ball down excellently but only connected with the ball using his studs, making it easy for Benjamin Siegrist to palm away.
Saints should have opened the scoring from a Craig Conway corner as Jason Kerr headed agonisingly wide with Craig Tanser, Murray Davidson and Craig Bryson all having chances before half time, none forcing Siegrist to make a save.
David Wotherspoon was next to try his luck but again, his effort went wide of the United goal. The Perth side eventually forced Siegrist into action, with the keeper making an excellent point-blank save from a Murray Davidson header late into the game.
United will be the happier of the two sides as St Johnstone had the much better of the chances, with manager Callum Davidson likely to be frustrated his side couldn't score for the 8th game this season. Micky Mellon's side move up to 6th but it is now four games without a win for United who now have a good run of games coming up.
Talking Point: Toothless United
Between Lawrence Shankland, Marc McNulty and Nicky Clark, they have scored 277 goals in Scottish football showing that these players are capable of finishing chances. With this firepower, it seems bizarre that United are the league's third-lowest goalscorers.
The problem doesn't seem to be entirely with the forwards, though, as United are having a real issue of late in creating chances. This weekend's game brought a familiar sight for Terrors fans, a lack of creativity that has seen their side fail to register many meaningful efforts. Between the fixtures against Hamilton, Livingston, Aberdeen and St Johnstone, Dundee United have managed a total of 6 shots on goal, an average of 1.5 per game. Other than Aberdeen, they have not faced a team in the top half of the league so this is shockingly low against teams of similar or worse quality based on positioning.
In saying this, United haven't been punished too heavily as they have been solid in defence for the most part, grinding out draws in their last two games despite being worse off in possession and chances. With a run of games coming up against Ross County, St Mirren and Hamilton, United fans will be hoping for a great deal of improvement as they could create a gap between themselves and those in the bottom half with some clinical performances.
Aberdeen 3-3 Celtic
It was certainly a game of two halves as an uneventful affair burst into life in an exciting second period at Pittodrie. A late Lewis Ferguson penalty denied Celtic the three points as Neil Lennon's side managed to avoid losing three games in a row despite an unimpressive performance.
Celtic went closest early on in 17 minutes after an uneventful opening, with Olivier Ntcham striking the post with a speculative effort.
The game continued to drag but Aberdeen took the lead from the penalty spot in the 43rd minute. A near through ball from Marley Watkins made its way to Lewis Ferguson who cleverly used his body to protect the ball as Olivier Ntcham ran into the Dons midfielder rather clumsily. Ferguson himself stepped up to take the penalty and would send Scott Bain the wrong way to give Aberdeen the lead.
Celtic did not have to wait too long for the equaliser as captain for the day Callum McGregor finished expertly. A fine piece of play featuring a one-two between McGregor and Tom Rogic saw the Scotland midfielder skip beyond the Aberdeen defence and fire past Joe Lewis.
The Celtic goal opened the game up as Aberdeen threatened before Tom Rogic had an effort on the counter-attack saved well by Lewis.
Derek McInnes’ side regained their lead after the hour mark, with Ryan Hedges scoring his 2nd league goal of the season. A terrible mistake from Shane Duffy saw Scott Wright rob the Irish defender of the ball before cutting back to Sam Cosgrove. Cosgrove’s effort was saved by Bain but the rebound immediately bounced back towards goal off the hip of Ryan Hedges, restoring Aberdeen’s lead in the 64th minute.
Aberdeen could have made it three but a lack of sharpness from Cosgrove and some good defensive work from Diego Laxalt would see the chance squandered. Ryan Christie also had a chance but his tame volley was easily held by Joe Lewis.
A quickfire double saw the game turned right on it's head as Celtic scored twice in two minutes to take the lead. Leigh Griffiths provided Celtic with a much-needed injection of quality, firing excellently into the top left corner after coming off the bench. Aberdeen may feel hard done by as referee Willie Collum didn’t give the Dons a free kick for a push on Sam Cosgrove by Shane Duffy, with play leading to the Hoops equaliser.
Only moments later, Mohammed Elyounoussi was brought down in the box by Tommie Hoban giving Celtic the chance to take the lead. Ryan Christie took the resulting penalty and made no mistake from 12 yards, putting Celtic in pole position to come away with the three points.
It was not to be for Neil Lennon's side as Aberdeen equalised in the last minute, with Lewis Ferguson netting his second penalty of the game. A fine piece of skill from Ryan Hedges saw the Aberdeen man burst into the box and square the ball back to Connor McLennan who was brought down by Callum McGregor in the box. Lewis Ferguson would step up for his second penalty of the day and earn his team a well-deserved point right at the death. The goal was Ferguson's eighth goal of the season, six of those coming from the penalty spot, as he sits above Kevin Nisbet as top scorer.
Derek McInnes will certainly be the happier of the two managers, with the game making next weekend's Scottish Cup encounter between the two that extra bit more tantalising. Celtic managed to stop their losing run but the pressure will be building on this side as they go to Lille on Thursday night.
Talking Point: Aberdeen Resilient Whilst Celtic Slack
Aberdeen's record against Celtic of late has not been the best, with 8 losses in the last 9 meetings. It has often been said that Aberdeen are unable to cope mentally against Celtic but they showed plenty of resolute this time out. The Dons were not phased by the first Celtic equaliser, although it looked like a capitulation may be on the cards as Celtic went 3-2 up.
However, Aberdeen continued to search for goals and got their reward late into the game as the bravery from the likes of Hedges forced Celtic into making costly mistakes. This will be a massive boost for Derek McInnes' side who'll go into next weekend's Scottish Cup semi-final with an abundance of hope that they can get a result. Based on today's performance, there's no reason they couldn't go one step further.
Despite scoring three goals, this was yet another sloppy display from Neil Lennon's side. Celtic simply aren't doing enough with the ball and are relying heavily on individual moments of quality to get them by. McGregor and Griffiths' strikes were excellent goals but the Hoops really failed to create many meaningful chances, especially in a poor first half.
Celtic also remain unconvincing at the back as Shane Duffy rounded off an awful week with another mistake that cost his side. Last season, Celtic only conceded 19 goals in 30 games, this season they are already halfway there with 10 conceded in 11 so far. Teams will know they can get at this Celtic side as the defence has shown vulnerability on a number of occasions this season, the only difference this time round was they were not bailed out by their attackers.
Rangers 2-0 Livingston
Two early goals were enough for Rangers to down Livingston at Ibrox as the Gers capitalised on their city rivals dropping points. Goals from Joe Aribo and Jermain Defoe saw Steven Gerrard's side cap off a wonderful week with a third win in 7 days.
Rangers got off to a great start as Joe Aribo tapped in a cut back from Ianis Hagi to give Rangers the lead. Efe Ambrose was at fault as he tried to dribble past Jermain Defoe but was caught out, leading to Hagi playing Defoe through. Max Stryjek made a great save from Defoe but the ball found its way back to Hagi and then to Aribo to put the hosts up 1-0.
It was soon 2-0 in 15 minutes as Defoe finished excellently from a brilliant through ball from James Tavernier. Tavernier expertly picked out Defoe who managed to get ahead of Jon Guthrie and left Stryjek with no chance as the Lions were left with a mountain to climb almost instantly.
Livi should have got a goal back in the 21st minute as Scott Pittman hit the post. An excellent bit of play from Julian Serrano down the left was met by the Lions number 8 but couldn’t find the back of the net, with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas unable to divert the effort in from close range in a huge missed opportunity.
Rangers controlled the proceedings for the rest of the half, knocking the ball about nicely but would carve out few clear chances as they went into the break with a comfortable 2-0 lead.
Livingston reverted to a back four at the start of the second half with Josh Mullin replacing Efe Ambrose and the Lions started to come into the game down the right-hand side. A couple of dangerous crosses made there way into the box as Mullin certainly added some energy to the Lions.
There wouldn’t be many chances in the second half, with Nicky Devlin making a terrific last-ditch challenge to stop Rangers from getting a third. Max Stryjek was forced into making a late save from Jordan Jones following a Rangers counter-attack that was led by Connor Goldson.
Rangers held out for another clean sheet and their 7th victory in a row, the first time they had done so in over a decade and expanded their lead at the top of the table to 6 points.
Talking Point: Directness From Rangers Offers Different Outlet
Rangers took the game to Livingston right from the start and got their rewards for doing so. Straight from the off, Rangers were at it and effectively deployed a direct style on a number of occasions. The most obvious example comes from Jermain Defoe’s exceptional goal where he was picked out exceptionally by Tavernier.
Tavernier has the quality to offer this standard of ball and did so on a few occasions, allowing Rangers to get in behind the back 5 of Livingston. With a defensive set up against them, Rangers quickly found joy by knocking balls into space and getting Livi to run back toward their own goal.
The second half didn’t see as much of the same action as Rangers held onto the ball which allowed Livi to come into the game more due to the less penetrative style of play. Nonetheless, Rangers were largely untroubled as they gave yet another professional performance at home, keeping up their impressive clean sheet record at home this season.