Aberdeen 0-1 Celtic: Callum McGregor scores late winner for champions

Callum McGregor’s 87th-minute strike proved decisive for his first game in two months

Returning captain Callum McGregor scored a stunning late winner as Celtic finally broke down a stubborn Aberdeen side to restore their nine-point lead in the Scottish Premiership.

McGregor – who was making his comeback after two months out with a knee injury – lashed into the net from 20 meters with three minutes remaining in the 90.

It was Celtic’s 33rd shot against Pittodrie as they finally wore down Aberdeen’s deep defensive blocking, which ultimately proved fruitless as the hosts finished the game with two attempts on goal.

Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic move nine back from Rangers, while Aberdeen end the day in third place due to postponements elsewhere.

It was fitting for Celtic that their lynchpin McGregor grabbed the decisive goal, having been out since early October, but it was just the latest example of the champions finding something at the death.

Ross County, St Johnstone, Motherwell and Dundee United have all been beaten in the dying moments of the game so far this term and McGregor’s low shot into the bottom corner added Aberdeen to the list.

And although it took until the 87th minute, in truth Celtic should have had the game sealed long before. Kyogo Furuhashi had the best chance, but somehow Liel Abada put a cross wide from a few yards out.

Aberdeen goalkeeper Kelle Roos denied Abada, Reo Hatate, Jota and others as the home side came close to clinging to a valuable point.

But the fact that they didn’t called into question their defensive approach, as they barely completed 100 passes in the game and mustered two attempts at goal, both of which were well off target.

Celtic engine on as Aberdeen approach raises questions

Celtic scoring a late winner certainly comes as no surprise – it’s what they’ve done regularly over the last three months.

Frustrated at times by the sheer number of bodies in the Aberdeen box, they could probably have played with a bit more width in the first half to try and stretch the opposition’s back five.

Abada made a difference in that regard after coming on at half-time and his great run and cross should have seen Kyogo open the scoring earlier. But overall the champions were in total control and could have won more comfortably on another day.

Despite coming within minutes of claiming a point, this performance will draw much criticism of the tactics of Aberdeen boss Jim Goodwin.

He spoke openly about taking inspiration from his old club St Mirren, who are the only team to beat Celtic domestically this season.

The set-up was identical, with a back five and midfield three across to outplay Celtic’s wide players.

It worked to a point, except that Aberdeen put far less pressure on Celtic when they had the ball than St Mirren, and were far less useful in the rare moments they did have the ball.

Goodwin has spoken openly about the confidence he has in his players and the attacking football they want to play, and has played at home, this season. This approach was contrary to that.

The last time they played an Old Firm side they were far too open and were picked apart at Ibrox, but here they offered nothing.

Goodwin must find a happy medium against Glasgow’s big two, starting with Rangers’ visit to Pittodrie on Tuesday.

What will be next?

Celtic are at home to Livingston on Wednesday (19:45 GMT), with Aberdeen hosting Rangers the night before (20:00).

Player of the match

McGregorCallum McGregor

Aberdeen

  1. Team number24Player nameRose

  2. Team number3Player nameMacKenzie

  3. Team number2Player nameMcCrorie

  4. Team number33Player nameKennedy

  5. Team number5Player nameStewart

  6. Team number11Player nameCloth

  7. Team number16Player nameRamadani

  8. Team number8Player nameBarron

  9. Team number20Player nameClarkson

  10. Team number22Player nameCoulson

  11. Team number9Player nameMiovski

  12. Team number17Player nameHayes

  13. Team number7Player nameMorris

  14. Team number23Player nameDuncan

Celtic

  1. Team number42Player nameMcGregor

  2. Team number11Player nameAbada

  3. Team number20Player nameCarter-Vickers

  4. Team number49Player nameForrest

  5. Team number3Player nametailor

  6. Team number33Player nameO’Riley

  7. Team number4Player nameStarfield

  8. Team number17Player nameJota

  9. Team number41Player nameHate

  10. Team number1Player namedeer

  11. Team number8Player nameFuruhashi

  12. Team number38Player nameMaeda

  13. Team number14Player nameTurnbull

  14. Team number7Player nameGiakoumakis

  15. Team number1. 3Player nameMooy

  16. Team number56Player nameRalston

Lineups

Aberdeen

Formation 3-5-2

  • 24Rose
  • 2McCrorie
  • 5StewartSubstituted forMorrison 90+3′minutes
  • 3MacKenzie
  • 33Kennedy
  • 8Barron
  • 16Ramadani
  • 20ClarksonOrdered in 66 minutesSubstituted forDuncanon 76′minutes
  • 22Coulson
  • 9MiovskiSubstituted forHayeson 73′minutes
  • 11de Barros Lopes

Substitutes

  • 1Lewis
  • 7Morris
  • 10The Besuijen
  • 17Hayes
  • 23Duncan
  • 25Richardson
  • 36Bavidge
  • 46Marshall
  • 99Ramírez

Celtic

Formation 4-3-3

  • 1deer
  • 56Ralston
  • 20Carter-Vickers
  • 4Starfield
  • 3tailor
  • 42McGregor
  • 33O’RileySubstituted forMooyon 90′minutes
  • 41HateSubstituted forTurnbullon 72′minutes
  • 38MaedaSubstituted forAbadaon 45′minutes
  • 8FuruhashiSubstituted forGiakoumakison 72′minutes
  • 17Filipe NevesSubstituted forForreston 73′minutes

Substitutes

  • 6Jenz
  • 7Giakoumakis
  • 11Abada
  • 1. 3Mooy
  • 14Turnbull
  • 25Bernabeu
  • 31Victorious
  • 49Forrest
  • 50Lawful

Judge:
Steven McLean

Participation:
15,567

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