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Aberdeen 0 - 1 Celtic

HT Score: Aberdeen 0 - 1 Celtic

Celtic scorers: Sutton 24

16/01/2005 | KO: 14:00

Deflection sinks Dons at Pittodrie

Aberdeen recovered from a poor first half performance but were unable to claw a goal back as Celtic ran out 1-0 winners. The goal that sunk the Dons was a shade fortunate as a Sutton effort took a wicked deflection off Phil McGuire and spun into the corner of the net after 24 minutes. On a positive note both Jamie Winter and Thorarinn Kristjansson made their debut and Winter in particular looked impressive as he rarely wasted a ball. At the end Aberdeen just didn't have the guile to break down a hard working defence and it must worry Calderwood that his side has failed to score in 413 minutes of SPL football and now trail Hibernian by four points..

Aberdeen kicked off towards the Richard Donald Stand and Darren Mackie almost latched on to a loose ball in the opening minute but picked up a knock for his troubles. Two minutes later Anderson was penalised on the edge of the box but Balde stepped up and fired the free kick straight at the Dons wall. Celtic then won the opening corner of the match in the 5th minute but the Dons defence held firm and cleared easily. Passing at this stage was poor and after losing possession again Celtic carved out a good chance in the 8th minute when Hartson set up Juninho and the small Brazilian just failed to connect with the goal at his mercy.

Two minutes later Hart was blatantly body checked going forward but neither referee Clark was happy to let play continue. Meanwhile the visitors were winning a series of fouls around the Dons penalty box allowing them to pepper the area with high balls. Some good footwork by Hartson set up Sutton in the15th minute but Diamond blocked his effort before McGuire was forced to scramble the resulting corner clear. A minute later Aberdeen broke well with Clark cleverly switching the play. Unfortunately Douglas easily gathered the final delivery. Celtic were having the better of the play at this stage as the corner count continued to rise and Aberdeen were yet to have a shot at goal.

Aberdeen did look impressive at times going from back to front but the final ball was a problem. In the 24th minute Celtic won their umpteenth free kick 25 yards out; this one being particularly soft. Fortunately the effort was again poor but there was no such luck for the Dons seconds later when Celtic grabbed the lead under fortunate circumstances. Hartson and Petrov set up Sutton on the left and his effort took a wicked deflection off McGuire before spinning agonisingly into the corner of the net. Aberdeen finally had their first shot at goal when Douglas held a low Adams shot in the 28th minute. A minute later a Hartson header ended on the roof of the net with Esson flapping in no man's land then a Petrov shot scraped past the post as Aberdeen struggled to get into the match.

Aberdeen managed a period of sustained pressure in the 35th minute but found the Celtic defence a tough nut to crack. The move ended with Douglas clutching the ball from the air as Whelan attempted to lob him. Celtic almost grabbed a second on the stroke of half time when Laursen made a good run, beat Esson with a low shot and then watched in agony as Diamond made a dramatic goal line clearance. Aberdeen ended the half in possession but once again failed to deliver a quality ball into the danger area.

The second half started in the same manner with Celtic winning a free kick 20 yards out. Once again they failed to convert the chance and Aberdeen had an opportunity to threaten in the 50th minute but neither Diamond nor Anderson could get their head on the ball and it floated away for a goal kick. With the pattern of the game remaining the same Calderwood made a double substitution in the 52nd minute when Tosh replaced Adams and Jamie Winter made his debut replacing McGuire. Aberdeen went close in the 58th minute when a Tosh free kick had the Celtic defence scrambling to clear and a minute later Esson made a safe catch to relieve the pressure at the other end.

Aberdeen made their best move of the match on the hour mark when Whelan steered a Winter pass into the path of Mackie and he released Clark on the left. His shot was blocked as loud appeals went up for handball. This incident got the crowd reacting and this seemed to spur the players on the field. Winter hit a long-range effort in the 65th minute and seconds later Juninho fired wide when a cut back looked the better option. In the 66th minute Tosh played a great ball through to Mackie and Balde had to stretch to clear the danger. The subsequent corner was scrambled clear as Whelan threatened. Balde became the first booking in the 69th minute for a bad lunge at Clark and Anderson evened things up a minute later when he was shown the second yellow card.

A good flowing move in the 72nd minute was halted when Sutton scurried back to block. Aberdeen were beginning to string passes together now and Celtic were having to work hard to deny them any scoring opportunities. With fifteen minutes remaining Kristjansson was handed his debut when he replaced Clark. There were appeals for a Celtic penalty in the 78th minute when Balde took a tumble in the box but it would have been harsh. However the game appeared to be slipping away from the Dons as the clock ticked down. However in the 84th minute the Big boys were piled forward and Celtic were forced to scramble a free kick clear.

Probably fearful of another late goal from Aberdeen, Celtic appeared to be having a nervous closing spell and Sutton was moved deeper as Aberdeen went searching for an equaliser. Heikkinen almost grabbed that elusive goal in the 88th minute when he was inches from connecting with the ball twelve yards out. A minute later a McNaughton pass back was caught in the turf and Esson had to look smart to clear before Hartson fired over from 12 yards. Celtic continued to waste time with a late substitution but in the end they comfortably held on to the win.

Aberdeen Teamsheet
Esson, McGuire (Winter 52), Hart, McNaughton, Anderson, Diamond, Adams (Tosh 52), Heikkinen, Whelan, Mackie, Clark (Kristjansson 70).

Unused Subs: Foster, Stewart, O'Leary, Ilic.

Bookings:  Anderson (70).
Celtic Teamsheet
Douglas, Laursen, Balde, McNamara, Lennon, McGeady (Wallace 90), Juninho (Camara 71), Petrov, Hartson, Sutton, McManus

Bookings:  Balde 69
Attendance: 17,057
Venue: Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen
Referee: Kenny Clark, Paisley
Match Programme from today's match.
Hartson gets to grips with Phil McGuire
Balde attacks the ball as Esson and Diamond defend.
Juninho misses as Esson and McNaughton look on.
Adams is sandwiched between Lennon and Hartson.
Sutton's effort spins off mcGuire and into the net for the winner.
Calderwood shouts instructions from the sidelines as Aberdeen search for an equaliser.
Hart and McGeady challenge.
Hart to Hartson as Diamond outjumps them both.
McGeady welcomes Jamie Winter to Scottish Football.
Winter learns quick to get the better of Neil Lennon.
McNaughton halts Camara at Pittodrie.
Russell Anderson dives between John Hartson's legs.