Dons beaten as wait for league win at Parkhead goes on

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes.
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes.

Aberdeen were beaten 3-0 by Celtic at Parkhead as their long wait for a league win at the venue continues.

The Dons were right in the game for the first three quarters until the Hoops’ netted their second and then it was always going to be a difficult ask for the Pittodrie side.

Celtic’s first and second goals – scored by Mikael Lustig and former Red Jonny Hayes – both owed a lot to good fortune and Kenny McLean’s mistake gave Olivier Ntcham the third goal with wrapped up the three points.

It means that Aberdeen have not won at Parkhead on league business since October 2004 and it also leaves Brendan Rodgers’ side eight points clear of the second-placed Reds.

Dons boss Derek McInnes made four changes from the side that beat Hibs 4-1 at Pittodrie last Saturday.

Stevie May and Shay Logan dropped out of the squad altogether with injuries while Ryan Christie was unable to play against his parent club and Scott McKenna dropped to the bench.

Summer loan signing Dominic Ball was brought in for a rare start at right-back, Mark Reynolds came in at the centre-back in place of McKenna, Kari Arnason returned to the centre of defence after his wife went into labour last week and Greg Stewart also returned to the starting line-up.

Aberdeen’s changes meant they lined up with a 4-5-1 formation. Stewart and Gary Mackay-Steven provided the width either side of lone striker Adam Rooney. Anthony O’Connor, captain Graeme Shinnie and Kenny McLean played in the centre of midfield with the former sitting slightly deeper than the latter two.

The opening quarter of an hour was relatively incident free. Arnason picked up a booking for tripping Moussa Dembele who was breaking forward towards the Aberdeen box.

Celtic enjoyed more possession but when the Reds did get it they showed they were more than capable of holding onto it as they put together some neat midfield moves.

But the match game to life midway through the first half. First the Dons had a chance.

Mackay-Steven put pressure on Dedryck Boyata who lost possession, Mackay-Steven then jinked into the box on the left and fired a low left foot shot just wide of the far post from 16 yards.

Up the other end keeper Joe Lewis made a fine stop with his legs as the Hoops broke after the visitors lost it in midfield.

Stuart Armstrong sent Sinclair clear down the inside left channel but Lewis smothered the shot.

Soon after Stewart stung the palms of home goalie Craig Gordon when he waltzed inside from the right and from just inside the area blasted for goal but Gordon pushed it clear.

The Dons were right in the game but sadly just five minutes before half-time a piece of misfortune saw them fall behind.

Lustig was given a small pocked of space 20 yards out. With nothing else on he decided to have a pop at goal,

The strike appeared to be drifting wide but it took a deflection off Ball and found the net with Lewis left wrong-footed by the deflection.

At half-time it remained 1-0 but right at the start of the second half it was nearly two. A Sinclair cross from the left was headed up rather than out. When it dropped Ntcham hit it on the volley from 10 yards, but luckily for the Dons it deflected off Ball and just wide of the far post.

Seven minutes into the second period Ntcham fired wide from 20 yards as the Hoops pressurised the Dons early in the half.

On 56 minutes Lewis was called into action as a slick Celtic move ended with Sinclair receiving it on the left and playing in the onrushing Tierney who had stormed down the left.

But the left-back’s shot wasn’t overly powerful and Lewis got down at the near post to hold it.

On the hour Dembele wasted a fine chance to make it 2-0. The Frenchman was through on goal but Lewis came out and forced him wide, he laid it across for Sinclair, but with Lewis still out of position Sinclair knocked it back to Dembele who lashed over from 15 yards.

At the mid point of the half Aberdeen nearly equalised twice in the space of 30 seconds.

The first chance was a Kenny McLean shot from 20 yards that took a nick off Kristoffer Ajier and zipped just wide for a corner.

Then from that dead ball on the left Stewart’s delivery was headed just over by Arnason from six yards.

Sadly for the Dons though Celtic went up the other end and scored the key second goal two minutes later and once again luck was not on the side of the men from the Granite City.

Sinclair got away from Ball on the left and chipped the cross in, Reynolds stooped to head it behind at the near post for a corner, but the header cannoned off Arnason and bounced across the six-yard box for former Don Hayes who knocked it home.

The game was definitely won for Celtic with 15 minutes left when McLean’s mistake allowed Ntcham to make it three.

Celtic were trying to break from an Aberdeen corner but the danger looked over when McLean controlled a long ball, but the midfielder under pressure from Ntcham completely miss-hit his backpass and it didn’t reach Lewis with Ntcham rounding the goalie to slot home.

There was to be no way back and soon after Lewis made a decent stop to keep out Dembele’s firm header from eight yards.

Celtic: Craig Gordon, Mikael Lustig, Dedryck Boyata, Kristoffer Ajier, Kieran Tierney; Scott Brown, Olivier Ntcham; Jonny Hayes (Callum McGregor 75), Stuart Armstrong, Scott Sinclair (James Forrest 70), Moussa Dembele (Odsonne Edouard 81).

Subs not used: Dorus de Vries, Jozo Simunovic, Nir Bitton, Leigh Griffiths.

Aberdeen: Joe Lewis, Dominic Ball, Kari Arnason, Mark Reynolds, Andrew Considine; Greg Stewart (Frank Ross 84), Kenny McLean, Anthony O’Connor, Graeme Shinnie, Gary Mackay-Steven (Daniel Harvie 88); Adam Rooney (Nicky Maynard 67).

Subs not used: Danny Rogers, Scott Wright, Scott McKenna, Dean Campbell.