ABERDEEN and Celtic traded blows on Boxing Day but once again it was the Parkhead side who provided the perfect sucker punch. With five goals in the last 14 minutes, this pair served up as tasty a dollop of late drama as will be witnessed at any Scottish ground this season.

While Aberdeen will still hope for a better fate than merely battling it out for the scraps, the guts which Brendan Rodgers’ side showed as they rallied from the loss of their second penalty of the day with just seven minutes remaining confirmed that they would be top of the table going into Saturday’s Old Firm showdown.

In fact, three points clear, with a game in hand and a superior goal difference, it would take a four-goal reverse in Govan for them not to have the ascendancy as 2019 begins.

But what else did we learn from a thoroughly entertaining afternoon in the North?


Celtic appear to be dreaming up new ways to crush the dreams of Derek McInnes and his team.

Three weeks ago, in the BetFred Cup final at Hampden Park, the Northern Irishman and his team dashed their hopes of silverware for the third time in a major showpiece. Yesterday, they simply spoiled his Christmas.

At the end of that Hampden final, you may recall Dons captain Graeme Shinnie remonstrating with Mikael Lustig for the alleged crime of over-celebrating in the face of Lewis Ferguson. There was a dramatic coda to that with seven minutes remaining here yesterday, when Shinnie tumbled to the box with an arm on his shoulder from the Swede.

“I didn’t think it was a penalty when Graeme fell over,” said Rodgers. “I have seen it, I think there is a push in the back. Lustig doesn’t need to put his hand on the back of Shinnie. Although what do I know about penalties!?”


With Odsonne Edouard being nursed back into action after an abductor muscle injury, Rodgers fielded Ryan Christie from the start as a false No.9.

Theoretically, when he dropped into midfield, it was opening up space for any of four midfield runners to get in behind and into the danger area, much as he himself did for the only goal in the recent BetFred final between the two teams.

This worked perfectly for the opening goal in six minutes, as Christie’s pass found the run of Callum McGregor, whose low cross broke between Dominic Ball and Tom Rogic. But at other points, it meant the club’s main striker was playing short passes on the half way line.

The arrival of Edouard for McGregor with 20 minutes to play gave Celtic the kind of focal point up top which they craved, the striker writing his name over this match in his time on the pitch in a manner which upstaged a Scott Sinclair hat-trick.

For his first trick, he played in a fine through pass to James Forrest in the lead-up to Sinclair’s second goal of the afternoon. Then he clipped home a beautiful finish over Joe Lewis with his left foot after a Scott McKenna sliding tackle hadn’t been cleared. He then wriggled past a few men to put the clinching fourth on a plate for Sinclair. And all this whilst appearing to be limping at times. The Frenchman appeared every bit the club’s £9m record signing here and on this form Rangers should be worried.


Rodgers made five changes in all from the side which cantered to victory against Dundee, but the continuing absence of Kieran Tierney at left-back suggested that his ongoing hip difficulty might be a cause for concern ahead of Saturday’s Old Firm encounter at Ibrox.

As experienced as Emilio Izaguirre is, the Honduran should really have known better than to lunge in on Niall McGinn at the bye-line after Shay Logan found the former Celtic man in space with a lofted pass.

While McGinn got his cross in, referee Willie Collum was correct to deem that his challenge was reckless and point to the spot. Stevie May made no mistake but there was no sign of Izaguirre for the second half, with Jonny Hayes making the most of his chance to pose more of an attacking threat from there. While Rodgers said he would give Tierney “every opportunity” of making Ibrox, the Irishman is now in pole position for an unlikely Old Firm left-back spot.


While Lewis Ferguson’s 90th-minute volley kept this alive to the death, it was ironic that the Pittodrie side should benefit from two penalties yesterday, despatched by May and Sam Cosgrove, in the wake of McInnes’ ongoing spat with Hearts boss Craig Levein over the non-award of penalties during last week’s 2-0 win for the Dons.

Levein revealed details of a private conversation about refereeing standards and said that he was “fed up with Del being a d***”. McInnes hit back yesterday: “I find it irrational and childish. Is the language strange? I think people can make their own opinions on that. I find it really disappointing from someone who has done so much in the game.

“Craig has intimated that I phoned him and is trying to cast aspersions. He said I was crying my eyes out but who made the call? He was the one complaining and he hasn’t stopped moaning since.”