It is a crucial day in the title race. Celtic kicked off the day’s SPFL proceedings with a tricky trip to Aberdeen. The Dons picked up a good win in midweek and buoyed by the result, coupled with the wind of storm Dennis, it proved a difficult contest for the Bhoys.
The conditions provided all the hallmarks of a scrappy game, yet Celtic raced into an early lead when Leigh Griffiths made a nuisance of himself before squaring to Edouard, who in turn played in James Forrest. Forrest showed excellent composure to dummy his shot before curling an effort towards the corner, which Joe Lewis could only parry to Callum McGregor, who tucked home a neat finish from close range for his third goal in as many games.
Celtic offered sordid little thereafter, as the Dons used the conditions to their advantage by lofting numerous high balls into the box. The wind played havoc and the Celtic backline had to battle to ease the pressure; Ajer in particular appeared to struggle on occasion with balls bouncing over the top. It wasn’t long before Aberdeen drew level, when another cross was lofted into the box and found its way to Ash Taylor at the back post. Taylor brought the ball down well and then struck an excellent finish on the volley.
In recent league matches, Celtic haven’t been scintillating in the first half, but have brushed teams aside in the second. Indeed, Motherwell and Hearts could testify to that, and it was hoped that Aberdeen would suffer the same fate. However, within 45 seconds of the restart, Aberdeen earned themselves another corner and continued to pressure Celtic without making too many clear opportunities. Eventually, Neil Lennon decided to change things up, and introduced Ryan Christie for Leigh Griffiths, switching to a 4-3-3 shape.
As anticipated, the match was very scrappy but Celtic did manage to work a clear cut opportunity mid-way through the second half, when Jonny Hayes went clean through. Hayes had the option to square to Ntcham but decided to go alone, a decision he would rue as his shot was well saved by the keeper. In reply, Aberdeen had a golden opportunity of their own as another long ball was played into the box and flicked on to McKenna, who in turn missed his header. Had he of known, McKenna could have left the ball for his teammate, who was in a better position just five yards out.
Celtic made Aberdeen pay, as champions do. A long ball was hoisted in the direction of Edouard and the Frenchman killed the it dead with his first touch before playing a fine back heel to James Forrest. Forrest, who had a poor afternoon overall, jinked inside and played a lovely pass across the box to Ajer at the back post. The Norwegian took a touch to compose himself before hammering home to give Celtic a late lead in the 81st minute.
Edouard then had a glorious chance to make sure of matters in the last minute, as Forrest whipped in a delightful cross. The striker missed his initial effort from two yards, but had a second bite at the cherry from a yard out, with the goalkeeper sprawled on the floor. Incredibly, the keeper managed to block Edouard’s attempt with his feet, yet the Celtic man will be wondering why he didn’t loft the his shot to score what was an absolute sitter.
It mattered little as the full time whistle blew soon after and Celtic went 13 points clear at the top of the league. It was far from a vintage performance and the stats would suggest that it was a very even game:
Corners – Celtic (3) v Aberdeen (5)
Possession – Celtic (50%) v Aberdeen (50%)
Shots – Celtic (6) v Aberdeen (6)
Neil Lennon told BBC Sport: “That was the hardest game I’ve had by a considerable way. Conditions were awful and we were playing against a very good side. It’s a magnificent three points for us.”
All that matters is the three points at this stage and to win under these circumstances shows the mark of champions. It’s over to ‘Rangers’ now, who host Livingston, on a shoddy pitch. Anything less than a win for the Ibrox club would surely hand Celtic the title.
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