Aberdeen 1-3 Celtic
Celtic's rampant second half performance was a sign of what we are capable of when we turn on the style. The Hoops are now a point ahead of second placed Hearts and seven points in front of Hibs, who lie in third. Kilmarnock and Rangers continue to battle it out for the fourth place.
After last week's dismal showing against Dunfermline, changes had to be made. Alan Thompson and Mo Camara were dropped and Chris Sutton missed out, apparently through injury. Maciej Zurawski partnered John Hartson up-front, while Shunsuke Nakamura returned to the midfield. Ross Wallace played at left-back in place of Mo Camara, who was dropped for "tactical reasons," according to Mr Strachan.
Aberdeen away is one of the best games of the season. Celtic fans are always in top form at Pittodrie and the team always look up for the game. Yesterday was no different. Credit to the Jungle Bhoys who spent hours before the game setting up a balloon display in the Celtic end, and hats off to Aberdeen's Red Ultras, who organised a impressive flag display.
A few classics were dug out by the travelling support, in reference to Rangers' quest for ten games without a victory. Only one more to go!
The first half was a dull show by both sides. Celtic were certainly dominating the play and conjured up the best chance of the opening 45 minutes when Maciej Zurawski was denied by the Aberdeen goalkeeper, in what appeared to be a bad miss as well as a good save.
There seemed to be something missing in Celtic's play; some kind of spark which would allow us to step it up a gear.
The spark came not long into the second half of the game. Bobo Balde added to a list of errors by losing the ball in his own half and Neil Lennon was forced to trip up the Aberdeen player who picked up possesion. From the resulting free-kick, Aberdeen took the lead.
Credit to Celtic for refusing to panic after going a goal down and not changing the style of play. In not doing so, they levelled only three minutes later.
Sunsuke Nakamura showed us all exactly what we were missing when he was injured last week by crossing a dangerous ball into the Aberdeen area. Bobo Balde lunged at the ball and after a scramble, Aiden McGeady showed fantastic composure to half-volley the ball into the net. A fasntastic finish from a fantastic talent.
It was only a matter of time before the away side took the lead, and with Nakamura involved again, John Hartson showed great strength to force a shot which was fumbled by Ryan Esson. Stan Petrov was there to capatalise on the goalkeeper's error, and he placed the ball into the Aberdeen goal.
Paul Telfer bagged his first goal for the club thirteen minutes after Petrov's strike. Nakamura's corner was neatly dummied by McGeady, letting the ball run through to Telfer, who rifled the ball home, cue the Aberdeen fans heading for the exits with over 25 minutes left of play.
The game was now, as a contest, over. Nakamura, Petrov and McGeady began to showboat, to the delight of the Celtic support. Some of the flicks and touches by Celtic were a joy to watch, and at times it was embarrassing for Aberdeen, who have already taken four points off Rangers this season.
The game's champagne moment though, came from substitute Shaun Maloney. From a throw-in, he flicked the ball over the Aberdeen defender behind him and charged towards goal. If the youngster had been sharper, and his finish better, we could have been looking at a contender for goal of the season, but his finish was poor and Aberdeen were let off.
Celtic are now showing signs of sheer dominance in their play, and we now have the flair factor in our game. Nakamura and Stan Petrov are fast becoming two of the UK's finest midfielders, while we have the youthful energy and skill of McGeady and Maloney to help them out.
John Hartson put in a shift and a half, and Maciej Zurawski clearly needs a couple more matches to settle.
Ross Wallace played well at left back and should start there next week. My only worry was Bobo Balde's performance. He constantly gave away possession and caused a few un-necessary scares for the defence. Maybe he has one eye on the African Nations Tournament which will take place next month.
So, a good day it was for Celtic, and it's another tricky away tie out of the way. Rangers are looming towards the bottom six of the table and we have the chance to put Hibs out of the road on Saturday at Celtic Park. Hearts are now our biggest worry, but I don't think we have yet seen the best of this Celtic side.
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