Another midweek game for Celtic and an opportunity to close the 18-point gap between themselves and runaway league leaders Rangers. Celtic took on an Aberdeen side low on morale after failing to score for five games, despite bringing in three strikers in the January transfer window, with calls echoing around Pittodrie for McInnes’s departure. Neil Lennon made three changes to his side after a win at MacDiarmid Park on Saturday, with Swiss striker Albian Ajeti, Ismailia Sorro and the surprise return of Stephen Welsh making there way back into the starting line-up, with Lennon swapping back to his favoured 4-1-3-2 formation. This seen club captain Scott Brown dropped along with Shane Duffy and Tom Rogic, who were all on the bench. With Callum McGregor taking the captain’s armband. Aberdeen made one change to their side who had drew 0-0 at Pittodrie, with Nail McGinn making way for Ash Taylor. McInnes believed a 3-5-2 formation would be best way to combat the men in hoops.
The start of the game was dominated by the home side, with a number of chances for Celtic in the opening minutes. Within the first three minutes, a deep cross from Greg Taylor found Odsonne Edouard however it ended up widely off target, with Edouard unable to hit it cleanly. It was clear Celtic were on top at the start with Aberdeen struggling to find a way into the game. Another chance for Celtic arose in the ninth minute with midfielder David Turnbull attempting an almost perfect chip pass, however fellow Scotsman Ryan Christie was unable to get hold of it. Aberdeen had a chance in the eleventh minute through Florien Kamberi who managed to evade Stephen Welsh and raced into the box, however his shot was easily saved by Celtic goalkeeper Scott Bain.
The only goal of the game came inside the fourteenth minute, through a spectacular 30-yard shot from David Turnbull, with a ball knuckleballing through the air and into the bottom corner, Joe Lewis had no chance of saving that. Arguably it can also be put down to Aberdeen’s poor positioning and marking which led to the goal, as he has shown on countless occasions you can’t give a player like David Turnbull that much room, who has been one of the few shining lights in the Celtic team this season. Celtic’s dominance continued in the game with David Turnbull firing a free kick over the bar around the 32nd minute. Aberdeen’s appeal for a penalty was ignored with on loan St Gallan striker Florien Kamberi pleads of handball against Stephen Welsh refuted by referee Alan Muir.
After the penalty incident around the 38th minute, Aberdeen seemed to wake up towards the end of the first half despite creating little to no chances in. A strike from Florien Kamberi was the main chance for Aberdeen this half, with the shot from the Albanian striker hitting the post. Scott Bain will argue he had it covered with the strike posing little threat. Just before the end of the first half another chance was created for Celtic with Aberdeen goalkeeper Joe Lewis preventing Celtic doubling their lead through French striker Odsonne Edouard who has scored 20 goals already this season and has regained his title of SPFL top goal scorer.
Aberdeen’s goal drought continued in the second half with few chances challenging Celtic goalkeeper Scott Bain. A chance came for Aberdeen shortly after the second half have kicked off with winger Johnny Hayes heading just wide from a free kick. However, another chance for David Turnbull with Callum McGregor creating the opportunity, by breezing past Aberdeen midfielder Ross McCrorie. Turnbull’s shot was blocked in front of goal by Andrew Considine, arguably if Turnbull had shot anywhere but down the middle Celtic would have a two-goal lead. Aberdeen failed to create some chances from great opportunities with Dean Campbell’s free kick failing to get over the wall of Celtic players.
With Celtic being nowhere near the threat they were in the first 30 minutes, Neil Lennon decided to freshen things up in the 62nd minute with Tom Rogic, arguably Aberdeen’s worst nightmare, replacing Swiss striker Albian Ajeti who had failed to make any real impact on the game. Aberdeen continued to persevere with chances coming from young striker Fraser Hornby and another chance from Florian Kamberi after a well worked Aberdeen free kick. McInnes took full advantage of his substitutions now bringing on Callum Hendry and Nail McGinn who replaced Fraser Hornby and Matt Kennedy in the 77th minute, after already using a substitution in the 62nd minute with Johnny Hayes being replaced by Connor McLennan.
Following McInnes, Neil Lennon took off both Odsonne Edouard and goal scorer David Turnbull who were replaced by striker Patryk Klimala and on loan winger Mohamed Elyounoussi on the 81st minute, with Lennon hoping these players would produce some magic and extend Celtic’s one goal lead. At the same time Ryan Christie attempted to lob Joe Lewis, however the Scotsman’s lob of the ball ending up on the roof of the net. Joe Lewis was once again called into action, facing a one on one with striker Patryk Klimala, however the Aberdeen keeper manged to put an end to the Celtic attack. With the game drawing to a close, Aberdeen were franticly searching for an equaliser and also an end to their 5-game goal drought. McInnes’s frustration could be seen from the touchline with his side failing to create anything, despite numerous chances. At the end of the four minutes of injury time, goalkeeper Joe Lewis was instructed to send the ball into the crowded Celtic box via a freekick. The ball was sent in again after Lewis failed to beat the first man, which called Celtic goalkeeper Scott Bain into action, diving bravely to scoop up the ball from an incoming Lewis Ferguson.
The game ended with a sigh of relief from the Celtic dugout after what had been a hectic few minute’s. Celtic were now on a winning form of five games and had narrowed the points gap to 15 points between themselves and Rangers. This result however has piled the pressure onto McInnes, with Aberdeen failing to score in a sixth consecutive game and only winning two out of their last 10 matches. This game seen Celtic manage to grind out a win, something they have had a hard time doing this season, against a desperate Aberdeen side. Aberdeen kept their position of fourth in the table, however Livingston have the ability to close the gap to just three points, with David Martindale’s men having a game in hand over the Dons.