Murphy on target to lift Celtic gloom
© Getty Images

Celtic leapt to the summit of the Scottish Premier League as Daryl Murphy's first goal for the club gave them a 1-0 win against 10-man Motherwell today.

Murphy struck from the penalty spot 17 minutes from full-time at Fir Park after Motherwell's Steven Saunders was sent off for a professional foul on Shaun Maloney.

The Republic of Ireland forward's first strike since his move from Sunderland in the close-season ensured Neil Lennon's team would move above champions Rangers into first place on goal difference.

That was a much-needed tonic for everyone at Parkhead after Celtic were dumped out of the UEFA Europa League by Utrecht on Thursday - just weeks after their attempt to qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stages ended in failure against Braga.

Lennon handed on-loan Newcastle goalkeeper Fraser Forster and Honduras left-back Emilio Izaguirre their debuts as he made five changes to the team crushed by Utrecht in the play-off second leg.

Motherwell also exited the UEFA Europa League in midweek against Odense but they could have taken the lead early on when John Sutton headed just wide from Tom Hateley's free-kick.

The visitors responded well and Motherwell goalkeeper Darren Randolph made a fine stop to deny Maloney from close range. Randolph had to make another impressive save to tip over Murphy's deflected effort, then Forrest's 20-yard drive was held by the keeper.

Celtic defender Glennn Loovens almost gifted Motherwell a shock lead when he sliced a clearance over the head of Forster but beyond the far post. Maloney went close just before the interval after beating Hateley and Steven Saunders inside the box but he shot into the side netting.

Celtic created two good opportunities straight after half-time but Daniel Majstorovic headed over from Izaguirre's corner, then Randolph got down well to hold a powerful strike from Georgios Samaras. Maloney set up Murphy with a clever pass but he shot wide from a tight angle and missed the target again soon after from a similiar position.

Celtic's pressure finally paid off in the 73rd minute as Maloney surged on to Majstorovic's defensive header. Saunders chased back but got too close to Maloney, who went down with a fall that convinced referee Dougie McDonald to point to the spot and show the Motherwell defender a straight red card.

Murphy sent Randolph the wrong way from the spot to seal the points and put a smile back on Celtic fans' faces.