Champions Celtic increase gap at the top

Celtic's Leigh Griffiths (left) and captain Scott Brown celebrate after the final whistle
Celtic's Leigh Griffiths (left) and captain Scott Brown celebrate after the final whistle


Celtic underlined their status as Scottish Premiership champions with their fourth win of the season over nearest challengers Aberdeen.

The Hoops were given a guard of honour by the Dons players before the game but there was certainly no sense of deference as Derek McInnes' side looked the more determined in the first half at a blustery Pittodrie.

However, Celtic skipper Scott Brown's early second-half finish from close range after starting the move at the edge of his own penalty area was the difference between the two sides, despite a valiant effort from the hosts.

Ronny Deila's men opened the gap to 14 points with two games remaining for them.

The fixture, in reality, had little at stake but the Norwegian fielded a strong side although right-back Darnell Fisher, however, made his first start of the season.

Midfielder Stuart Armstrong was also drafted back in as Efe Ambrose and Gary Mackay-Steven dropped to the bench, joined by the surprise figure of midfielder Tom Rogic whose last appearance for the Hoops was against AC Milan in November 2013.

Aberdeen midfielders Barry Robson, back from suspension, and Kenny McLean came in for Willo Flood and Peter Pawlett who were named among the substitutes.

After applauding the visitors on to the park to the sound of boos from the home support, Aberdeen took the game to Celtic in a high-tempo start.

A neat one-two between Robson and McLean in the 11th minute ended when the former Celtic player sent a 30-yard drive whistling past Craig Gordon's right-hand post.

Fisher then headed clear from six yards to deny waiting Aberdeen wide man Niall McGinn after good work by Jonny Hayes inside the box before defender Mark Reynolds knocked the ball past the post from close range.

Then, Robson's curled free-kick from 25 yards was held confidently by Gordon.

Celtic's best chance of the first half came in the 36th minute when Robson lost possession in the Hoops' half.

Celtic left-back Emilio Izaguirre sent Stefan Johansen clear down the left but his weak lob was clawed away by Aberdeen goalkeeper Scott Brown for a corner.

Fisher drove high over the crossbar from just inside the box as Celtic became more expansive towards the end of the first half. Brown's goal was a case study in drive and determination.

The Scotland skipper won the ball from Robson in a tackle at the edge of his own box before driving forward on the counter-attack. When Armstrong cut the ball back from the byline, Brown was on hand to slide the ball past his namesake and into the net.

Aberdeen came straight back. McGinn burst into the Hoops box but could not keep his shot down.

However, at the other end, Dons keeper Brown had to make a double save, first from Leigh Griffiths and then from Kris Commons before Johansen missed the target with a drive after the Dons defence got themselves in trouble.

Play stretched further and Aberdeen huffed and puffed while Celtic were menacing on the break, Brown again saving from Griffiths.

The Dons piled forward in the closing stages but determined Hoops defending, some wayward shooting and a great headed chance missed by substitute Lawrence Shankland, on for Ryan Jack, meant they once again came up short against the Glasgow side.

Indeed, had Brown not made two saves from Johansen and substitute James Forrest, on for Armstrong, in the five minutes of added time, Celtic could have doubled their lead.