It took a bizarre goal from Callum McGregor to hand Celtic a 2-1 win over Aberdeen – but Stephen Glass’ side were lucky not to concede four or five in a disappointing display in Glasgow this afternoon.
The Dons made three changes from last weekend’s clash with Dundee United, Funso Ojo, Jack MacKenzie and Dean Campbell missing out while Lewis Ferguson, Johnny Hayes and David Bates coming into the starting XI.
Incredibly, Stephen Glass’ side marked the first time an Aberdeen youth academy graduate hasn’t made the starting line up for the Dons since 1947 – a remarkable 74 years ago.
It was the hosts who made much of the early play, Jota and Kyogo causing all sorts of problems for the Aberdeen defence but for all of their attacking play, there wasn’t a huge amount for Joe Lewis to have to worry about.
However, Celtic’s persistence finally paid off after 20 minutes when Jota did break the deadlock and hand the Parkhead side the lead to leave Aberdeen on the ropes.
The opening goal had been coming and it was only a matter of when, not if, Celtic would break down Aberdeen’s resistance and find a way past Lewis.
With just over 30 minutes gone, the Dons were handed a massive lifeline when David Bates was brought down in the box by Liel Abada, leaving the referee no option but to point at the spot – Lewis Ferguson stepping up to fire beyond Hart and level the scores.
Ferguson’s goal completely changed the game, giving Aberdeen the confidence to push forward and try pick holes in the Celtic defence and search for a second of the afternoon before the teams went in at the break.
Celtic again upped the pressure in the final minutes of the first half, spurning several chances to test Lewis as Ange Postecoglou’s side lacked a real killer touch in front of goal.
After the restart, it was all Celtic as the hosts looked to get themselves back in front but far too many of their chances broke down thanks to poor decision making in the final third or poor shooting as they wasted opportunity after opportunity.
The best fell to McGregor when he thundered a strike at goal, Christian Ramirez blocking it with his throat and requiring treatment before rejoining play.
Just after the hour mark, Aberdeen gifted Celtic the easiest of goals as Hayes rattled a clearance off his former Parkhead teammate McGregor and could only watch as it bounced into the back of the net with Lewis helpless.
It summed up exactly the sort of season Aberdeen are having under Glass this term as the bizarre goal left Aberdeen with it all to do in the final 30 minutes.
Shortly after the second goal for Celtic, Scott Brown limped off to a warm ovation from the home fans – although there likely won’t have been many in the Aberdeen dugout clapping as he made his way off with what looked like a hamstring injury.
Celtic continued to flood forward and Lewis was called into action 15 minutes from the end, making a smart save to deny Ralston when the full-back rose to meet a header but Lewis tipped it over the bar and out for a corner.
Aberdeen hadn’t come close to laying a glove on Celtic in the second 45 and with the minutes ticking away, the only question seemed to be whether or not they could contain their hosts until the final whistle and avoid conceding a third.
Jota almost grabbed a third in the closing stages, hitting the post after beating Lewis – with the Dons breathing a massive sigh of relief when it headed away from danger.
Aberdeen very nearly grabbed the late equaliser when Juranovic cleared a header off the line from a Dons corner as Joe Hart looked beaten.
Celtic: Hart, Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Welsh, Juranovic, McCarthy, McGregor, Abada, Turnbull, Jota, Kyogo.
Substitutes: Bain, Scales, Ajeti, Soro, Johnston, Forrest, Montgomery.
Aberdeen: Lewis, Gurr, Bates, McCrorie, Hayes, Brown, McGeouch, Ferguson, Hedges, Ramirez, Watkins.
Substitutes: Ritchie, McGinn, Emmanuel-Thomas, Jenks, Samuels, Campbell, Longstaff.
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