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Celtic 4 Aberdeen 3: The wrong goodbye

IT is customary to receive a carriage clock upon your retirement, but all Craig Brown left Celtic Park with yesterday were regrets.

Aberdeen's Scott Vernon slides the ball under Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster to cancel out Kris Commons' first-minute opener
Aberdeen's Scott Vernon slides the ball under Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster to cancel out Kris Commons' first-minute opener

The 72-year-old, who announced this week that he would move, somewhat reluctantly it seemed, into a non-executive director's role this summer, spent most of what may well be his last competitive visit to Parkhead dreaming of his first SPL victory at this ground as manager, and Aberdeen's first here since 2004.

As the game moved into its last quarter, they were leading 3-1, courtesy of a double from Josh Magennis and a gift from Kelvin Wilson which had allowed Scott Vernon to equalise a Kris Commons opener after 12 seconds.

After defeats to Motherwell and Ross County, Celtic were staring at the unheard ignominy of three straight SPL losses, but Charlie Mulgrew and Gary Hooper got the ball rolling before Georgios Samaras's overhead kick in the last of four additional minutes answered all those recent criticisms about their desire to win domestic matches, some of which came from their manager.

"People accuse them of not showing enough desire but I think you saw when the fourth goal went in what it meant to them and the supporters," said Lennon, who singled the excellent Kris Commons out for praise – he scored one and had a hand in the other three.

"It was like the good old days. We know we have a few defensive problems we need to sort out, but our desire to win the game was fantastic. I have been waiting for this team to do this for a while."

As for the Craig Brown retirement roadshow, this was no way to treat such a venerable grandee of the Scottish game. The Aberdeen boss left lamenting the fact he had declined to bring on Rory Fallon to withstand the inevitable aerial bombardment.

"I can't recall a game like that when you lose a goal in 12 seconds, get control of the game, yet capitulate at the end like that," he said. "I fault myself because I should have put on a big striker as a defender. But I thought if I had put on Rory, who is a good header of the ball, it would have sent a negative message out to the defence."

The crowd was given as 46,395 on a day where a newspaper front page had railed against Celtic and Rangers massaging their attendance figures, but Celtic Park was little more than half full.

Yet, it wasn't a day for leaving early. Or arriving late for that matter. One of Jamie Langfield's periodic clanger moments had arrived in this fixture earlier in the season, when he let a tame Kris Commons centre trickle under his body to settle a 1-0 win, and soon yesterday he was cursing the same man.

Hooper funnelled the ball forward to Anthony Stokes then on again to Commons, who steadied himself before rifling in a low finish. The guessing was that this bettered the 12.4 seconds it took Anthony Stokes to score for Hibernian against Rangers back in 2009.

For a while it seemed the contest was all but over; Langfield tipped a Mulgrew free kick over, Kelvin Wilson had a shot blocked, then the goalkeeper rushed out to confront a low shot from Stokes. But the pace of Celtic's play dropped and seconds after a Scott Vernon header which dropped inches wide sent anxiety around the stadium, a moment's lapse saw Aberdeen draw level.

Josh Magennis caught Wilson napping, although the Englishman felt he had been impeded, but referee Stevie McLean didn't and Magennis wasn't for arguing as he squared for Vernon to finish.

There was more of the same after the break. Vernon and Gavin Rae worked a chance for Magennis and the Northern Irishman finished beneath the body of Fraser Forster, then the same man cleverly re-directed Rae's drive into the net, despite looking suspiciously offside.

There would have been no return from a fourth goal, but Celtic threw the kitchen sink at their visitors, particularly from set pieces, and got their rewards. Mulgrew whacked one in following a corner with the aid of a deflection, then Hooper headed over the line after Ambrose's effort was cleared.

Russell Anderson's rugby tackle on Hooper set up one last free-kick, and from Lassad's knock down, Samaras guided an overhead kick sweetly into the corner. The big Greek milked his moment by taking his strip off and swirling it around his head, earning a booking which hardly registered amid the tumult. "It was a special goal in the last seconds so I think you can take out some emotions," he said.

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