CALLUM McGREGOR admitted the title danger signals are flashing for Celtic following an off-colour performance in a dismal 1-1 stalemate with Motherwell at a stunned Parkhead.
The Hoops back-fired big-style in a day of squandered chances, including a penalty-kick from Luis Palma which lacked the precision or power to beat Liam Kelly.
The champions relied on a second spot-kick to register with David Turnbull tucking his away with some aplomb. But they couldn’t even hang onto that 86th-minute advantage and only moments later the visitors, who had rarely threatened, equalised with a close-range header from Jon Akiba after the defence had failed to respond to a left-wing corner-kick.
THE FACE OF CONCERN…Callum McGregor just moments before Well’s equaliser.
There were another 10 minutes of added-on time, but, unlike the previous meeting between the clubs at Fir Park in September, there was no Matt O’Riley strike to make sure Brendan Rodgers’ side didn’t carelessly throw away two points.
At one stage of the campaign, the hosts were seven points ahead of their nearest challengers from Ibrox and looked to be coasting towards their twelfth championship in 13 years.
Now, though, Philippe Clement’s side have the opportunity to cut the present nine-point advantage to six and still have a game in hand. To do that, they must first beat Aberdeen at Pittodrie in the noon showdown today.
Another win after that would make the December 30 confrontation between the Glasgow sides in the east end of Glasgow even more intriguing.
Reflecting on the surprise turnaround, McGregor said: “Is it a warning? Yeah. You find yourself seven points clear early doors and everybody thinks: ‘That’s it wrapped up’.
“It’s never ever like that. There are so many twists and turns. I say it every year, it’s the team that deals with disappointment best that will go on and win the league.
“There are too many variables and games of football to be played. The team that bounces back from disappointments and defeats will win the title.
“We need to make sure that, internally, we stay strong and give everything we’ve got especially in this really important period.”
MISS…Luis Palma sees Liam Kelly save his penalty-kick.
The Hoops skipper, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “It was a frustrating day. We lacked a wee bit of quality in the final third.
“Missing the penalty just adds to the anxiety as you feel the game could open up if you score that. We then get the goal and it’s not really like us to concede like that.
“There is a lot of football to be played and we need to dust ourselves off and go again. We have a big game against Lazio on Tuesday and then we have a busy festive period. We need to stay together and bounce back.
“We normally see games out like that really well. That’s the biggest disappointment as we had to work really hard to score and then we conceded two minutes later. That kills you at any level of football.
“We have a busy period, so we can’t beat ourselves up too much. If you do that, one bad result can lead to another and, before you know it, it snowballs. We have to get rid of that and dust ourselves down.”
HIT…David Turnbull tucks his spot-kick low past stranded Liam Kelly.
Palma joined Reo Hatate and Turnbull on the misshit list as Hoops players to blow a penalty-kick this term and McGregor, who fluffed one from the spot against Livingston last season, added: “It’s getting to the stage where I might need to put my hand up, isn’t it?
“It’s a really important part of the game and we’ve missed too many already.
“We’ve got some good penalty-takers. David is a natural, Luis is good at set-plays and Big Oh is also good. We’ve got the quality in there, but it’s maybe a concentration thing.
“It’s something we have to look at, for sure. When games are tight, those are the things that can decide it for you.”