Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Celtic get Euro boost by outsmarting Dons

Keep out: Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster blocks a header from Aberdeen's Mark Reynolds (left) during Saturday's clash at Pittodrie

Aberdeen 0 Celtic 2: Celtic picked the ideal time to show they can overcome pre-match obstacles as they won 2-0 at Aberdeen hours before heading to Kazakhstan to continue their Champions League qualification bid.

Manager Neil Lennon had bemoaned the international fixture schedule that saw many of his players return to Glasgow less than 48 hours before their lunchtime clash at in-form Aberdeen.

And his squad suffered further disruption less than 12 hours before kick-off when a fire alarm went off at their hotel.

Celtic started slowly at Pittodrie although the home side could not make the most of some decent opportunities to put the ball in the box, but they got a grip of possession before the key moment just prior to the break when Aberdeen goalkeeper Jamie Langfield was sent off for conceding a penalty that Kris Commons tucked away.

Celtic, who scored late on through James Forrest, embarked on the seven-hour flight to Astana from Aberdeen Airport immediately after the match to give themselves as much preparation time as possible before tomorrow afternoon's first leg with Shakhter Karagandy.

But they should be able to cope with whatever comes their way in the former Soviet state after brushing off their late-night disruption in the Granite City.

Lennon said: "It's becoming a bit of regular occurrence in Aberdeen. The fire alarm went off about half one.

"It was freezing outside as well. I think it was somebody playing a prank but for some of the residents in the hotel it wasn't very nice.

"There were a couple of elderly people and people in wheelchairs who were a little bit distraught. It is tiresome but it can also fire you up."

Lennon's tactics – he started with a narrow midfield – showed the respect he held for Aberdeen following their opening Scottish Premiership wins over Kilmarnock and Motherwell.

Afterwards Lennon said: "The way we set up, we tried to stop (Peter) Pawlett, (Willo) Flood and (Ryan) Jack trying to influence the game. We lacked a bit of width but we were prepared to do that to influence the midfield more than them. Fraser didn't have much to do in the first half, he had one great save in the second half.

"We played into their hands a bit because we played a lot in front of them but we managed to turn them a bit as the game went on."

Lennon handed debuts to centre-backs Steven Mouyokolo and Virgil van Dijk, the latter from the bench. And although Adam Matthews came off with a tight hamstring, he hopes to have four more players to supplement his squad for the European clash with forwards Anthony Stokes and Amido Balde and midfielders Tom Rogic and Derk Boerrigter expected to return.

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