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Celtic 3 - 2 Aberdeen

HT Score: Celtic 1 - 2 Aberdeen

Celtic scorers: Varga 27, Hartson 50, Bellamy 57
Aberdeen scorers: Diamond 11, Mackie 14.

16/04/2005 | KO: 15:00

Celtic comeback denies Dons.

Aberdeen produced a tremendous performance at Celtic Park this afternoon but failed to collect any points as Celtic came from behind to win 3-2. There was little damage done to their Euro hopes however as both Hibs and Hearts stuttered to shock defeats. The Dons took a two goal lead inside the opening 14 minutes through goals from Diamond and Mackie before Varga pulled one back before the interval. The Dons then lost a sloppy goal early in the second half, but could do little to stop an incredible Bellamy winner. The Dons never folded at any point however and finished the match on top but couldn't get the elusive equaliser.

Aberdeen got the game underway and competed well in the opening stages with neither team able to carve out a chance in the opening five minutes. Mackie conceded a free kick in a dangerous area in the 6th minute but it was well defended then a minute later Heikkinen did well to block a Valgaeran effort as Aberdeen contained the early pressure. The Dons created a half chance in the 10th minute as Blaha and Byrne combined before they won the first corner of the match. The set play produced the opening goal when Clark's corner was half cleared allowing Severin to return the ball into the danger area where Diamond steered the ball past Marshall from 15 yards.

Richie Byrne collected the first yellow card in the 13th minute when he tugged the shirt of Petrov. The set play was well defended and Aberdeen broke quickly to add a sensational second goal when Heikkinen released Muirhead who ran the length of the field and found Mackie in the clear. The striker made no hesitation as he drilled the ball past Marshall. Aberdeen were now full of confidence and won another corner in the 17th minute when a McNaughton shot was headed wide. The Celtic defence dealt with the set play however as they suddenly found themselves on the back foot. Celtic almost pulled a goal back in the 21st minute when Bellamy released Petrov but Esson was out quick to smother the ball.

Aberdeen instantly hit back with Muirhead causing all sorts of problems, but the move ended with McNaughton taking a fresh air shot. Celtic won their first corner in the 25th minute after Aberdeen had defended a dangerous free kick as the home side tried to turn up the temperature. A second corner was half cleared and Esson made another great save as he tipped a McNamara effort over the bar. The ball was then cleared off the line before Varga finally scored with a header to bring Celtic back into the game. Unsurprisingly the 50-50 decisions started to go against the Dons as the home side restored their confidence.

Aberdeen almost added a third in the 31st minute when a cross-come-shot hit the roof of the net from Muirhead. Aberdeen were under the cosh again in the 36th minutes before Esson managed a secure punch to clear the danger then an error by Diamond two minutes later produced another corner, which ended with Hartson firing over the bar. Hart conceded a free kick 30 yards out in the 44th minute but the wall held well and mopped up. Despite two minutes of injury time the Dons held out comfortably to the break.

Celtic came out after the break with all guns blazing as they looked to level the match although the Dons did break out in the 49th minute but were unable to penetrate the home defence. A minute later Esson made a great save from Bellamy but the danger wasn't cleared and Hartson pounced to level the game after firing in an Agathe pass to punish some sloppy defending. The great start had now been undone with still forty minutes of the match remaining. Aberdeen broke again in the 54th minute as Blaha moved forward but was halted for a very soft infringement. A minute later good build up play set up McNaughton but the midfielder chipped the ball over the bar with Marshall off his line.

If the second goal was due to sloppy defending then Celtic went ahead for the first time in the 57th minute with a wonderful strike from Craig Bellamy. A corner was played deep and the Welshman hit a decent volley into the other side of the net to put the home side ahead. Two minutes later Esson made a fine save as Hartson and Bellamy threatened. Blaha was booked on the hour mark and seconds later he was replaced by Foster. There were screams from the Celtic fans in the 62nd minute when Bellamy went down as Byrne made a challenge on the Welshman. The referee eventually had to speak to Bellamy as he continued his protest but no card was produced.

In the 67th minute Severin strode forward but failed to find Foster with his pass as the Dons looked for an equaliser. Two minutes later Esson easily gathered a Varga header before a poor pass from Heikkinen halted a potential attacking opportunity for the Dons. Seconds later another Severin cross caused problems for the home defence before Byrne was replaced by McGuire in the 72nd minute. Four minutes later a Muirhead cross just evaded Mackie as the Dons continued to probe for a way back into the game. Agathe was lucky to escape a booking for a late challenge on McNaughton in the 80th minute as the Dons continued to force the game.

With eight minutes remaining Aberdeen forced a period of sustained pressure as Celtic looked to desperately hang on to their lead. In the 83rd minute Mackie was found at the back post but his header back across goal was intercepted by Marshall. Then with two minutes left on the clock Calderwood replaced McNaughton with Jamie Winter as the Dons looked for another late goal in paradise. In the 90th minute Foster broke again and slipped the ball to Mackie but the ball was adjudged to have crossed the line before he delivered. In the closing seconds Muirhead had the chance of glory but fired well wide of the target.

Celtic Teamsheet
Marshall, Varga, Balde, McNamara, Valgaeran (Agathe 30 (Henchoz 80)), Lennon, McGeady (Sutton 56), Petrov, Hartson, Bellamy, Thompson.
Aberdeen Teamsheet
Esson, Hart, Byrne (McGuire 72), McNaughton (Winter 88), Diamond, Severin, Muirhead, Heikkinen, Mackie, Blaha (Foster 60), Clark.

Unused Subs: Kristjansson, Considine, Dempsey, Preece.

Bookings:  Byrne (13),  Blaha (60).
Attendance: 59,998
Venue: Celtic Park, Glasgow
Referee: Craig Thomson
Byrne and Hart keep a close eye on Celtic's McGeady.
Zander Diamond fires the Dons into the lead this afternoon.
Scott Muirhead is first to congratulate Diamond.
Darren Mackie makes it 2-0 for Aberdeen at Celtic Park.
Chris Clark congratulates Mackie on his goal.
Varga heads home Celtic's opening goal.
Hartson makes it number two for the home side.
Bellamy turns to celebrate the winner this afternoon.
Martin O'Neil is rather animated as Phil McGuire tries to collect the ball.
Michael Hart challenges Craig Bellamy.
Bellamy takes a tumble in the box during the second half...
...his plea for a spot kick falls on deaf ears.