Ajer makes the difference as Edouard gives Celtic five point Christmas lead

CELTIC made hard work of picking up the three points this afternoon against Aberdeen at Celtic Park. An early goal from Cristopher Jullien – surprisingly enough from a corner kick – should have settled the nerves and Celtic certainly were in impressive form, knocking the ball around and creating chance after chance. However the quest for the perfect goal came to nothing as intricate passing movements inside the Aberdeen box – which could on several occasions ended in goal of the season contenders – inside ended in frustration as Celtic player invariably took one touch too many.

Odsonne Edouard is perhaps way too cultured a footballer to consider a good old fashioned toe-poke, however that in elegant of movements could have given him a hat-trick in that first half.

The opener was coming. Jullien had already hit the bar from an earlier corner. The time he connected rather awkwardly with his foot and hit the ball into the turf. The ball bouncers awkwardly for the flapping Joe Lewis in the Aberdeen goals and ended up in the top postage stamp corner. Not a contender for goal of the season that one and perhaps rather embarrassed the Celtic players set about chasing down the perfect moment and only found themselves suckered by Aberdeen’s giant striker Cosgrove heading home to level the scores after the referee somehow say a foul in a Jeremie Frimpong challenge wide on the right.

The cross come to nothing but both Bolingoli and Brown failed to clear the second ball down the opposite channel and the resulting cross from the byeline left Forster helpless and Cosgove rose high into the air to head home powerfully at the back post from four yards.

Celtic were denied a penalty shortly afterwards then an Olivier Ntcham shot was clearly deflected for a corner but instead a goal kicker was the decision. It was beginning to look like one of those afternoons. The first half ended with the scores even and referee Euan Anderson being roundly booed as he left the field. The penalty decision seemed to have been a correct call but it certainly didn’t look that way from the North Stand. How Anderson failed to spot the clear and obvious deflection from Ntcham’s shot remains a mystery.

Celtic came out early for the second half but remained unchanged with Christie on the right, Ntcham in the number 10 role and Forrest on the left.

Aberdeen continued to sit deep and were quite content to ride their luck and overload their penalty area. Block after block kept Celtic at bay until Kris Ajer broke through the lines on 68 minutes and suddenly Edoaurd found space and with all that French coolness placed his shot in the bottom right hand corner as Paradise erupted.

It felt like an important moment in the season.

Mikey Johnston looked lively when he came on, replacing Ntcham, to play down the left allowing Forrest to move over to right for ten minutes before he too was replaced by Tom Rogic. Neil Lennon’s other change was to replace Edouard with Griffiths and all three substitutes contributed to the win.

Aberdeen’s winger was sent clear in a rare Aberdeen offensive moment but Kris Ajer did brilliantly to recover ground and get his timing perfect inside the area. He then got up to collect the ball down in that corner near the visiting support. Cosgrove, showing complete disregard for his fellow professional went through the big Norwegian with vicious force and was rightly shown a straight red card.

There was pushing and showing invoking Cosgrove and both Scott Brown and Boli Bolingoli with both Celtic men extremely unhappy at the disgraceful challenge. Thankfully Ajer was able to continue.

Frimpong was sent through on the Aberdeen goal in the closing stages with just Scott McKenna to beat. That was achieved easily enough but he tried to curl his shot into the top corner and misjudged sufficiently to let Aberdeen off the hook. With four minutes added Frimpong picked up a booking in conceding a free kick at the edge of the area but as the Rangers hopes rose of a shock they were quickly dashed as the shot went high over the bar with Fraser Forster looking unconcerned.

The final whistle came shortly afterwards and was loudly cheered by the Hoops fans still inside the ground.

Man of the Match was given to Christopher Jullien by the sponsors, however we reckon it was Kris Ajer hands down. That run to set up the winner and the brilliant intervention to deny Cosgrove – who thought he was scoring – a second won the day for the Hoops.

Next stop Paisley. Here we go Ten in a Row, and as the banner at Hampden said at the Cup Final “Merry Christmas you Filthy Animals”…

The Celtic Assistant Manager John Kennedy gave his thoughts post match, which you can watch below.

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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