Celtic stretch lead over Aberdeen after Parkhead show of strength

Hoops now six points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership after four-goal show

Celtic 4 Aberdeen 0

The narrative of this match will reveal as much about the end of Aberdeen’s tilt at the title as confirmation in all but name that Celtic have retained it.

The scoreline was ultimately emphatic, a scenario which no one could have foreseen during Aberdeen’s forceful start. By the final whistle their total collapse meant they were lucky to escape with a four-goal defeat.

For the first time in this, his maiden season as the Celtic manager, Ronny Deila has breathing space. The advantage at the summit of the league has been extended to six points over Aberdeen; Celtic also have a game in hand which takes place when St Johnstone come here on Wednesday.

Thereafter focus will shift towards whether Celtic can complete what would be a rare domestic treble. Aberdeen’s motivation now is to pick themselves up from what proved a harrowing match in Glasgow.

“I don’t take anything for granted,” Deila said. “I know how quickly things can turn around if you lose focus.

“It was a wonderful afternoon. You could see in the first half we struggled to get the tempo into our legs but we got the goal and that put more energy into the team. In the second half I think there was only one team on the pitch.”

This proved Aberdeen’s first league defeat since early November and the heaviest of their campaign.

“Celtic took full advantage of our desperation to get back into it,” said their manager, Derek McInnes. “We unravelled and they exploited that. As they will do because they are a good team.”

Aberdeen had opened with purpose but like so many teams coming to Parkhead with similar hope they suffered by not capitalising on their opportunities. Niall McGinn had a curling effort turned over the bar by Craig Gordon and Andrew Considine wasted a glorious headed chance before defensive blundering contributed to the opening goal.

Scott Brown in the Aberdeen goal slashed a kick straight to Stefan Johansen. The midfielder fed Leigh Griffiths who watched his shot batted away by Brown. From the resultant corner Griffiths suitably distracted Brown on the goalline, allowing Jason Denayer to head home powerfully.

Aberdeen began the second half with more promise. Considine was again profligate with his head, this time from a Peter Pawlett cross, before Adam Rooney failed to latch on to a fine McGinn pass and a penalty claim for handball was turned down. What happened next triggered Aberdeen's capitulation.

Crazily, Mark Reynolds bundled through the back of Johansen inside the area when the Celtic player was facing towards the touchline. Griffiths made no mistake from the spot. Gary Mackay-Steven's excellent low drive made it three and Celtic's fourth arrived as Adam Matthews found Johansen with a cut-back. Johansen gave Brown no chance.

Only overplaying and laziness prevented Celtic from adding to their tally. Their number of three-versus-one attacking positions in the closing moments had to be seen to be believed, with Aberdeen taking apparent leave of all organisational senses. McInnes has plenty to be content with such has been Aberdeen’s progress in recent times but he will want to forget about this as quickly as possible.

(Guardian service)

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