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Daryl Murphy outscores James Beattie

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Daryl Murphy scored his first competitive goal for Celtic at Motherwell today to take Neil Lennon’s side to the top of the table ahead of the international break.

Being ahead on goal difference may be of academic interest at this stage of the season but a defeat or a draw would have created a minor crisis.

With the transfer window closing on Tuesday and no more fixtures until September 11 the new Celtic boss will be able to put the time to good use.

Lennon hasn’t had a full week of training at Lennoxtown since he was appointed manager with games in Canada, USA, England, Portugal and Holland played against a background of constant transfer activity.

Strikers are judged on goals and Murphy’s career stats to date aren’t impressive.

Stats however, as old Ebbe Skovdahl once said, don’t tell the whole story and Murphy has spent more than half of his career playing as a left midfielder or in a struggling side with their backs to the wall.

For good measure in the last calendar year James Beattie and Vladimir Weiss have scored three goals between themselves, one more than Efrain Juarez.

As early as the ninth minute today Murphy showed his attacking instinct when he raced confidently onto a pass from James Forrest before powering in a shot that was deflected and had Motherwell keeper Darren Randolph struggling to push over for a corner

Left-back Emilio Izaguirre made an impressive debut today with an athletic and committed performance without being overly tested defensively.

Comparisons to Roberto Carlos are clearly misplaced- an overdue replacement for Tosh McKinlay would suit most hoops supporters after years of watching Mo Camara, Lee Naylor, Danny Fox and Edson Braffheid demonstrate various levels of incompetence.

In attack Murphy’s style will never be showy or eye catching but he made a favourable impression in his first competitive start.

Straight away a physical presence that has been absent in the forward line for too long was noted alongwith a sure first touch and ability to retain the ball.

With Georgios Samaras dropping into various positions and Forrest and Shaun Maloney pushing forward at every opportunity Murphy made his presence felt even if he did appear to tire towards the final whistle.

It would have been easy for the former Sunderland striker to look the other way when Celtic were awarded a 73rd minute penalty but Murphy fancied his chances and stuck the ball into the net.

By that time Paddy McCourt had entered the match, replacing Samaras, with the Motherwell defence obviously way of the Derry Pele.

Maloney seemed to find an extra gear when he was switched to a more central role with his pace proving too much for Steve Saunders who sent the Celt crashing to the deck for a penalty and red card.

There were no real scares for Celtic at the back although Glenn Loovens took a sore face from debutant Fraser Forster as the Geordie keeper marked out his territory dealing with a cross ball.

Despite the revolving door nature of the close season Lennon has the basis of a title winning squad to work with although the arrival another striker and central defender would be very welcome.

The new signings have had a crash course on what’s involved as a Celtic player.

Expectations and reality collided on the European stage- at home they have emerged with full points and three clean sheets with difficult trips to Inverness and Motherwell negotiated successfully.

The turnover of players in the last twelve months is terrifying with half a dozen currently out on loan.

Success for Lennon will be a quiet January transfer window requiring some fine tuning as the new look team finds it’s feet domestically taking full advantage of the problems Rangers are bound to encounter when the demands of the Champions League begins to bite.

Rangers prepare for Kenny Miller’s departure

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