Comfortable victory for Celtic

 

Celtic, by the use of perspiration rather than imagination, won the League Cup yesterday by comfortably seeing off the challenge of Aberdeen.

In what may still end up as an unsatisfactory season, they at least have a trophy to show off. "I was getting fed up looking at team groups and all there was in front of the players in the picture were a couple of Mitre balls and the physio's bag," said one fan.

The goals from Vidar Riseth and Tommy Johnson were nicely timed and manager Kenny Dalglish took no risks after that as Celtic played the rest of the game cautiously. The departed John Barnes, it should be added, had a hand in this small triumph for a club which has been used to slender pickings recently.

There was little of the swagger that had been seen as the Bhoy's planted 18 goals past Aberdeen in three league matches this season, but the business still had to be done.

The Dons may have shaken off the tag of Europe's worst team but they are hardly the finished article and Jonathan Gould was completely untroubled in the Celtic goal.

Dalglish was in one of his taciturn modes at the end. "I've only won a couple of matches. John Barnes did the rest and the players worked really hard," he said. "It will allow our supporters to go to work in a good mood in the morning."

Celtic were largely in control throughout with Tom Boyd marshalling the defence, and Morten Wieghorst and Lubomir Moravcik setting out their midfield stalls. Only up front, where Mark Viduka was strangely subdued, could any real fault be found.

But their lead in the 15th minute rather confounded the bright start Aberdeen had made to the match. The concession was another small indication of the defensive frailties which have blighted the Dons since the start of the season.

Moravcik, probing away on the left, held up the ball just long enough for Wieghorst to make his forward run and he delivered the ball around Mark Perry's feet. The Dane found Riseth, of all people, standing alone on the six-yard line and, after a rather inelegant swing, the ball ended up in the back of the net.

Aberdeen continued to bring some vibrancy to the occasion in the first half - Hicham Zerouali's wasted volley from an Arild Stavrum cross showing a willingness to attack opponents still struggling to string passes together.

But the Dons chances collapsed in an eight-minute period after the interval in which one of their players was carried off, another sent off, and in which they conceded a second goal.

The Moroccan Zerouali looked in considerable pain after an awkward but scarcely malevolent challenge by Jackie McNamara. Five minutes later, Celtic had the game wrapped up when McNamara, Moravcik and Viduka all combined down the middle to allow Johnson to draw Jim Leighton and beat him with the cross shot.

As Celtic went for the jugular, Thomas Solberg's desperate and illegal tackle on Stilian Petrov saw him dismissed for a second bookable offence. Moravcik later saw his chip canon back off the bar, but it mattered not. The Aberdeen supporters were left only to contemplate a long and largely silent journey home.

ABERDEEN: Leighton, Perry, Anderson, Solberg, McAllister, Bernard, Jess (Mayer 74), Guntveit (Belabed 45), Dow, Zerouali (Winters 53), Stavrum. Sent Off: Solberg (61). Booked: Solberg, Dow, Bernard, McAllister.

CELTIC: Gould, Riseth, Mjallby, Boyd, McNamara, Petrov, Moravcik (Stubbs 87), Wieghorst, Mahe, Viduka, Johnson (Berkovic 90). Subs Not Used: Kerr. Booked: Petrov, Johnson, Riseth. Goals: Riseth 15, Johnson 58.

Referee: Kenny Clark (Scotland).