AGRAND old New Firm derby tussle ended in a just draw that could have produced many more goals. Aberdeen must have almost forgotten what it is like to lose as they last suffered defeat on the opening day of the season.
Conversely, Dundee United have to look back six games for a league win, but there was much to encourage them here, too. The home side's last outing ended in a 4-0 defeat at Inverness and "night and day" was the verdict of manager Peter Houston after yesterday's performance.
He said: "This was an improvement, a start. We won't be down the bottom [of the table] at the end of the season. We have players who are too good for that."
Both teams had outstanding performers yesterday: Keith Watson at right-back and Jon Daly, asked to drop from target man to centre-back, for United; for Aberdeen, it was captain Russell Anderson and Niall McGinn, scorer of their equaliser, who was still on a high after his goal for Northern Ireland in Portugal.
"He is on fire at the moment," Anderson, said of McGinn. "He's on a really good streak. He's feeling good about himself just now and rightly so.
"To play for your country, to score and for Northern Ireland to play as well as they did – he is full of confidence and I think that showed today."
Aberdeen's journey south – and the kick-off – was delayed due to an accident and the visitors made a slow start. United were taking pot shots from the start and fired in four long-range efforts before Aberdeen gave Radoslaw Cierzniak in the home goal anything to do.
So it was no surprise when Houston's side took the lead. John Rankin got the ball too easily from a throw-in on halfway and drove inside before passing to Johnny Russell on the left. From the start of the move to the moment the ball crossed the line, these were the only two players Aberdeen had to worry about.
Russell swerved past Mark Reynolds just outside the box, leaving the defender on his backside. He then drove at Jamie Langfield and smacked in a shot the goalkeeper parried. Following up fastest was Rankin, who hooked a foot around the rebound to direct it into the net.
Anderson, Reynolds' partner in the Aberdeen defence, did much better from a weaker starting position when Russell was about to pull the trigger to the left of the penalty spot a little later.
The Pittodrie skipper recovered magnificently, sliding into a tackle that left the ball ricocheting off the striker to avoid the concession of even a corner.
Anderson was next in the opposition box, getting up at the near post to glance a header on to Ryan Fraser's corner. Only Mark Millar, guarding the far post, kept it out.
Aberdeen went close again with their attack. Isaac Osbourne released McGinn down the right with a peach of a pass between centre-back and full-back.
The Northern Ireland forward cut a short pass back to Scott Vernon, whose first-time shot was saved quite brilliantly by Cierzniak, low and just inside his left-hand post. After the break, Aberdeen pushed hard.
They made nothing of four corners at the start of this period, but one was earned by a McGinn shot on the run from the top left of the penalty box that produced a fine diving save from Cierzniak.
From their fifth corner, the ball ended up in the United net. It was earned by McGinn's victory in a duel with Stuart Armstrong in the corner. When Fraser sent the set-piece over, Anderson glanced it towards the far post and McGinn didn't have to move to flick it in.
Daly then reminded us that he makes his money as a target man. His knockdown from a Willo Flood free-kick was an invitation. Keith Watson charged at it six yards out but Langfield saved with his body when a goal seemed certain.
Late on, Langfield saved low down after Russell had spun away from a posse of defenders and ripped at goal. It ended in stalemate, but of the most entertaining kind.
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