Rogic stunner extends Celtic’s lead at top
Saturday 29th October 2016
Celtic met Aberdeen at noon on Saturday knowing that a victory would extend their lead to ten points over the Dons, having played a game less. In what has proved to be a tricky encounter for Celtic in recent seasons, a moment of magic from Aussie midfielder Tom Rogic proved to be the difference between the two sides. Aberdeen looked a galvanised team after their disappointing midweek loss to Hamilton Accies, their first loss since the last time they met Celtic back in August. Celtic weren’t quite at their fluid best, but will head into Tuesday’s crunch Champions League tie with Borussia Mönchengladbach with three successive wins and clean sheets behind them and a growing sense of optimism that they might be able to propel themselves back into European contention.
The opening exchanges were typically hectic, with both sides in pursuit of the crucial opening goal. Aberdeen’s Niall McGinn had the first clear cut chance of the game on eight minutes when his eight-yard effort was blocked from Celtic’s Danish centre half Erik Sviatchenko after Shay Logan had found space down Celtic’s left hand side and reversed the ball into the path of the Irishman. Aberdeen sought to prevent the free-flowing football Celtic have been showing this season with aggressive and determined pressing. Despite this, Celtic did manage to gain relative control of the game and while Aberdeen prevented them from being at their creative best, they were still the side that looked more likely to score throughout. Celtic’s Tom Rogic was once again instrumental in anything Celtic did in attack and it was he who broke the deadlock after twenty-three minutes with a goal right out of the top drawer. The ball broke to the Aussie about twenty yards from goal after Shay Logan had failed to clear his lines. Rogic still had a lot to do as the ball bounced and swerved upwards from the Pittodrie turf, but he managed to control the ball with his right foot and expertly catch it on the half volley with the outside of his left boot, exquisitely directing it into the bottom left hand corner of the net. It was a goal of sheer quality and one which Celtic fans have become accustomed to seeing from the Aussie magician.
Celtic defended resolutely throughout the game, and Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong provided much needed energy and calmness in the middle of the park, allowing Celtic to remain in control of the game. Aberdeen did manage to create some half chances however, and were unlucky not to equalise in the fortieth minute when McGinn found Considine at the back post in space with a beautifully weighted cross. The defender didn’t make a clean connection with the ball, and his resulting effort was intercepted by the well positioned Jozo Šimunović, and eventually gathered by the alert Craig Gordon. Only a few moments later, Celtic were close to doubling their lead. A tidy flick by Moussa Dembélé and the determination of Celtic’s left back Emilio Izaguirre eventually resulted in the ball ending up at the feet of Rogic, who had drifted into space out wide. The Aussie’s clever cut back was met by the boot of Stuart Armstrong who had made an intelligent run into the box, however the Scot was unable to make a clean connection with the ball and diverted it wide of the post. Aberdeen could count themselves lucky to be going into the interval only a goal down.
The second half took much the same pattern as the first, as Celtic searched for the second goal that would all but kill off Aberdeen. Scott Sinclair came agonisingly close to finding just that in the forty-eight minute when he unleashed a shot that seemed destined to curl into the top right hand corner of the Aberdeen net, only for the Dons ’keeper Joe Lewis to produce a magnificient finger-tip save with his outstretched right hand. The former England under 21 stopper was called into action once more five minutes later. Mikael Lustig found Rogic racing in on goal with a wonderful pin-point cross field pass, however this time the Aussie was unable to convert the opportunity. Celtic were thwarted once more by Lewis a few moments later, when Moussa Dembélé’s shot from 12 yards out was blocked once again by the big Englishman, after some neat play by Lustig and Rogic had created the opportunity for the in-form striker. Celtic continued to create chances, Rogic coming close again with an effort dragged just wide of the left-hand post and James Forrest failed to punish Aberdeen with an effort from the edge of the box which curled just wide of the right-hand post.
It was Celtic who were forcing the issue, but as the game went on the Dons grew in confidence and began to believe they could take something from the game. There was an added impetus to their play in the last quarter of an hour so as they pressed in search of an equaliser. Erik Sviatchenko and Jozo Šimunović were called into action on more than one occasion, but both were colossal in maintaining Celtic’s lead and any questions that were asked of them were answered diligently. Cristian Gamboa replaced a tired Mikael Lustig with about ten minutes remaining and added a freshness into the back four. Hoop hearts were in mouths with a minute remaining when Graeme Shinnie found himself bearing down on the Celtic goal after a well-executed knock down by Adam Rooney. Jozo Šimunović seemed to do just enough to put the midfielder off, and Erik Sviatchenko was able to make a perfectly timed last ditch block to keep the score line at 0-1. It looked like there was going to be one last twist in the tale right at the death as a James Maddison free kick met the head of Sviatchenko, who was unable to adjust his positioning and consequently directed a header towards his own goal. Craig Gordon was alive to it and produced a fine reactionary save, tipping the ball over the bar. It was his and Celtic’s third clean sheet in a row and one that will fill the Celts with optimism going into their midweek Champions League game, having been able to see out a comfortable victory against the second best team in Scotland, after their midweek exertions in Dingwall and what has been a fairly hectic schedule of games for the Scottish champions.
Aberdeen: Lewis, Logan, O’Connor, Reynolds, Considine, Jack (Rooney 53), Shinnie, McLean, McGinn (Maddison 53), Hayes, Burns (Stockley 82)
Unused subs: Alexander, McKenna, Storie, Pawlett.
Booked: Shinnie, Hayes
Celtic: Gordon, Lustig (Gamboa 80), Simunovic, Sviatchenko, Izaguirre, Brown, Armstrong, Rogic (Bitton 70), Sinclair, Forrest (Roberts 75), Dembele
Unused subs: De Vries, Griffiths, O’Connell, McGregor
Booked: Sviatchenko, Lustig, Brown
Goal: Rogic, 23
Referee: Steven McLean