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Celtic's Deila under fire as below-par Hoops slump to Aberdeen

Aberdeen 2-1 Celtic

By Ronnie Esplin

Ronny Deila has promised that Celtic will retain their Scottish Premier League title - despite the demoralising 2-1 defeat against sole challengers Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

The result piles the pressure on Deila - booed off by Hoops fans at the end - with Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill linked to the post.

O'Neill, though, would not be a contender until after Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 adventure in France is over in the summer.

Goals from Jonny Hayes - playing with a bandage on his hand after being bitten by a dog - and debutant Simon Church put the Dons in control before an injury-time consolation from Leigh Griffiths.

It was too little, too late however as the Hoops' crisis deepened, their lead at the top cut to just three points in a league they are expected to win at a canter.

Hopes of a domestic treble for the Glasgow club had ended with a League Cup semi-final defeat to Ross County at Hampden Park on Sunday, while Celtic have long since departed the European stage.

They are in Scottish Cup action on Sunday against minnows East Kilbride.

"There's a lot to play for and everything is in our hands. We're going to fight to the bitter end to win this title," pledged Deila (pictured). "I accept it's a bad situation but the situation is also that we're top of the league by three points.

"Sometimes it might feel like relegation but I'm disappointed the same as everyone else but I also know we have a good chance here.

"We just have to keep calm, working and believe in the things we are doing. We've won a lot of games and have lost three in the league.

"We have many opportunities and Aberdeen will come to Celtic Park so it's going to be an important game.

"My message is that we have to stay together. The players need the fans' support and we'll give everything for them.

"Together we're going to do it. We are one club and everybody is working every day to get the best results and best performance," said the Norwegian.

"When the Celtic support is behind the team it's great. In the end they have their opinion and opportunity to say what they want. They supported us during the game and I really appreciate that.

"We didn't score early enough, it was too late when Leigh scored."

Aberdeen, with Northern Ireland winger Niall McGinn in top form against his former club, were good value for the win.

Dons boss Derek McInnes said: "The atmosphere was terrific. The supporters made it a special night for us and the players never let them down.

"The performance was full of intent. We were worthy winners."

The visitors had looked in control of the match until the 31st minute when Dons wide-man Hayes scored with a thunderous drive from 25 yards before Church added a second before the break.

Aberdeen came out after the break fired up with confidence and could have added to their lead as the Hoops struggled unsuccessfully to get back in the game, with Griffiths' injury-time strike too little, too late.

Hoops skipper Scott Brown made his first start for more than two months after a substitute appearance against County, while transfer deadline day signing Colin Kazim-Richards came off the bench.



ABERDEEN: Brown, Logan, Taylor, Reynolds, Shinnie, Hayes (Smith 86), Storie, McLean, McGinn (Considine 72), Church (Pawlett 76), Rooney

Goals: Hayes 31, Church 37

Subs not used: Robson, Collin, McKenna, Ross

CELTIC: Gordon, Lustig (Allan 78), Sviatchenko, Boyata, Tierney, Brown, Bitton, Mackay-Steven, McGregor (Forrest 68), Armstrong (Kazim-Richards 45), Griffiths

Goal: Griffiths 90+3

Subs not used: Izaguirre, Ambrose, Cole, Bailly

Man of the match: Hayes (pictured) Match rating: 8/10

Referee: Steven McLean

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