Celts are better by half
Aberdeen 1 Celtic 3
Celtic manager Gordon Strachan hailed his team’s "fantastic energy" after an assertive second-half display overcame a difficult challenge from Aberdeen.
Scott McDonald took his tally for the Hoops to 50 goals with a late double to hand them a 3-1 victory at Pittodrie on Saturday and keep them on course for their fourth successive Clydesdale Bank Premier League title.
The victory never looked in doubt after McDonald struck a low first-time effort into the bottom corner in the 72nd minute after Andreas Hinkel had sent in a measured cross following some patient build-up play.
But there was more than a touch of concern on the Celtic bench as Aberdeen moved forward with purpose during the first half.
Chris Maguire had already missed a great chance before heading the Dons in front following a free-kick from Charlie Mulgrew, who then saw Scott Severin shoot over after his deep corner had caught out Artur Boruc.
Celtic also had first-half chances and Jamie Langfield twice saved well from Paul Hartley, but there was an element of fortune about their equaliser in the final minute of the half.
Langfield looked to have Gary Caldwell’s header covered before Andrew Considine diverted it over the goalkeeper’s head following a disputed free-kick.
But Celtic took full advantage by producing an accomplished second-half display.
Shunsuke Nakamura was influential on the ball and set up McDonald’s injury-time goal, while Hartley drove forward well in the absence of the suspended Scott Brown and drew another excellent save from Langfield.
Strachan was critical of his players at the interval but he was delighted with their response.
"There was high energy and purposeful football from Aberdeen in the first half," Strachan said.
"We had a few chances but we were a bit lax with our tackling, heading and a bit indisciplined in giving free-kicks away.
"But we stuck at it and reorganised at half-time and got better and better and better.
"Their energy was absolutely fantastic and they made a lot of good chances."
Aberdeen manager Jimmy Calderwood also felt Celtic’s energy was the key to their victory, although he rued his side’s missed chances and Dougie McDonald’s decision to penalise Richard Foster for a challenge on Aiden McGeady before Celtic’s equaliser.
"Celtic got a massive lift, their big players started playing — Nakamura, young Aiden and I thought Scott McDonald was brilliant the whole game," Calderwood said.