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Celtic Preview | Derek McInnes
“The players have been terrific in their work over the last while and have made a good start. We were pleased with the last result and performance at Easter Road and we’ve had a good week to ten days preparation so the game can’t come quick enough.
“Celtic’s record is a record that deserves huge credit.
“It’s not an easy thing to do and of course they have the best squad, but keeping that squad motivated and focussed for each and every game isn’t always an easy thing to do. A lot of those games have been straightforward for them, some games they’ve had to dig it out so I think any team that can produce that level of consistency and performance deserves huge credit.
“It’s a tough ask. They’re a team that gives you the biggest challenges, they have more attacking threats than any other team and there is a challenge for any manager that faces Celtic to get the balance right between attacking and defending. We’ve got to be confident in our own work that we’ve got the players here that can light up the game and produce good stuff, but mindful of the quality they possess. We’ve to make sure we do our work in a measured way.
“We’ve managed to beat Celtic teams here in my time, but we’ve always had to play really well against them. In the six occasions last year against this current Celtic team I thought we were competitive, but we didn’t do enough over a 90-minute performance to win the games.
“I thought in the last couple of games we got closer to them and we threatened to win or at least gave ourselves the chance to win it. I don’t say they are invincible, but they are certainly a team that have the squad to cope with injuries, the schedule and any team that Brendan will pick tomorrow will have real attacking threats in it.
“They’ve got answers most of the time and what we’ve got to do is find a way to nullify the threats for a lot of the game and it’s difficult to contain that. We want to be confident in our work. We want to play our game. We are used to winning at Pittodrie, we’re used to winning in the league this season and we want that to continue. Some games offer you a bigger challenge and there’s no doubt the challenge is there for us tomorrow, but with a full house here, the game live on TV, pitch looking good, players in good form its set up for us hopefully to get in amongst it and see what we can do.
“For us we are only nine games in and it’s not easy staying with them for nine games. The challenge is to be with them after 29 games and then go into the run in. It’s difficult, but all we want to do is to be pleased with what we are producing.
“We want to remain unbeaten, keep the winning run going and seeing where it takes us over the course of the season. It’s up to us and everybody else to try and leave our mark on the game and see if we can get a result.
“It’s disappointing we won’t have Ryan Christie tomorrow, but we knew that and that was one of the reasons why we tried to buy him as we didn’t want to be restricted. It is what it is and we’ve prepared for tomorrow’s game knowing Ryan wasn’t available. He’s doing well as have a few others so there’s plenty of players that have been bursting to play their part.
“Everybody is fit. Tansey and Considine are fully fit and we’ve got some of the younger ones back so we are really pleased with that.
“We are engaging with Anthony O’Connor and his agent and there seems a real willingness that he wants to be here, but nothing to tell at the minute. I think he is getting better and he is somebody I’d like to keep working with and I still think there’s more to come from him.
“Unfortunately, Kenny McLean has indicated that he is going to leave at the end of the season. I’m totally fine with that. Naturally disappointed, but at the same time grateful that Kenny and his agent have been honest enough to tell us that would be their intention. When we signed Kenny part of the sale was to develop himself into a full Scottish internationalist and be part of a successful side and he’s been part of a strong team. We want him to go out on a high with us hopefully and even get involved with the Scotland squad coming up. We wish Kenny well, but for now his focus is on us and the rest of the season and going out on as much of a high as possible.
“His commitment to us has been clear. His running stats and running has him hands down better than any other player.
“Kenny will have a good future in the game and we are disappointed we won’t get to work with him that bit longer and if we do get an offer in January we may or may not consider it. Having had plenty conversations with him he has loved his time here and still loves it. His focus is on trying to do as well as he can for us. That’s football. One or two of the players last year gave us plenty of warning that was their intention.”
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Unbeaten run comes to an end
As a result of the change Shinnie found himself back in midfield and showed plenty of attacking intent in the opening stages, particularly when he forced Gordon into the first save of the match with a long range strike.
The first corner of the match went to the visitors when Logan turned a cross from Forrest behind. The Dons cleared the corner and stood up well to the resulting pressure from Celtic with Shinnie winning a foul from Armstrong to relieve the pressure completely and close out the opening ten minutes.
It was time for The Dons to apply some pressure of their own as a result of some industrious play with Stevie May outmuscling Bitton inside the Celtic half. From there May fed Shinnie who evaded Brown and once again hit a strike towards goal which forced Gordon into a low diving save.
After a fairly even start to the match it was Celtic who drew first blood when Dembele broke free down the right in the 12th minute and knocked the ball across the area. His cross skipped all the way through to the back post and was met by Tierney who matched his desire to get on the end of the cross with real accuracy to fire the ball into the net off the underside of the bar.
Tom Rogic is a player who has caused plenty of problems in previous fixtures against The Dons and it looked like he had once again found his way onto the scoresheet when he cut inside and fired a strike towards goal but Lewis was equal to it as he parried the ball clear.
In the 23rd minute Arnason was the first player to be booked when he brought down Rogic 25 yards from goal. Armstrong and Rogic were over the ball, the Scotsman struck the ball and it ended up well wide of the post.
Over the next few minutes Craig Thomson infuriated the home support with a number of soft decisions going against The Dons. Mackay-Steven won a free-kick deep in the Celtic half when advantage should probably have been given. In the end May’s delivery didn’t beat the near post and set the visitors off on the counter-attack but ultimately it came to nothing.
The visitors looked very comfortable in possession and after a prolonged spell on the ball they eventually made their move for the second goal of the game from a throw-in. Tierney took the throw and received the ball back from Brown before charging into the Aberdeen half finding space 30 yards from goal. His whipped cross fell between the defence and Lewis and left Dembele with a simple finish.
With a couple of minutes to go in the half the first sign of frustration was visible when O’Connor dived into a challenge on the halfway line with McGregor. He hardly connected with the Celtic midfielder but it was a rash challenge and resulted in a yellow card. It was pretty much the last action of the half and that type of aggression would need to be channelled the right way to get The Dons back into the match in the second half.
The visitors started the second half on the front foot with a couple of quick incisive counters. The first break ended with Armstrong sending a strike straight at Lewis from 20 yards, the second counter was worked to Tierney but his shot was blocked.
Up the other end some industrious play from Shinnie forced a corner from Lustig. The delivery was behind the main group of players in the area and was flicked to the back post by Considine but didn’t fall kindly for a red shirt.
The Dons had an opportunity to test out the Celtic defence when McLean was fouled by Rogic in a wide area but the delivery was disappointing as Gordon collected a high looping cross at the back post.
Celtic were soon on the front foot again when Lustig charged down the right, his initial cross was blocked by May but the ball broke kindly for him to find Rogic. The Australian cut inside and opened up his body to aim for the far corner but uncharacteristically sliced the ball wide.
Moments later Celtic had another chance when Forrest was set free with a ball inside Considine. The winger drove into the box and saw his shot saved before Dembele’s rebound was miraculously turned over the bar by Arnason.
At this point the management team elected to make their first change with Rooney being replaced by Wright. The striker had worked had all game but didn’t have much to work with in the final third.
Forrest was once again on the move in the Aberdeen half and this time it looked liked Considine had made a good challenge but the referee thought otherwise and showed the full back a yellow card. The free-kick was taken by Bitton and blocked by the wall.
In the 61st minute McKenna became the third player in the backline to be booked when he brought down Dembele on the touchline in front of the South Stand. From the free-kick Celtic added a third when Boyata won the ball at the back post, his header fell to Dembele who had a simple finish to get his second of the night.
Just after the third there looked to be an opportunity to cause Celtic some problems when May was fouled near the corner flag by Boyata. The delivery caused a bit of pinball in the box but once again didn’t really fall kindly for an Aberdeen player.
In the 66th minute Gary Mackay-Steven was replaced with Tansey in a move which saw McLean take a position wide on the right.
As the match entered the final twenty minutes Celtic the sting had long been taken out of the match but The Dons were still chasing the game and were almost rewarded for pressing high up the pitch when Shinnie dispossessed Brown. After taking the ball off the Celtic captain his strike from 20 yards was dragged just wide of Gordon’s far post.
With fifteen minutes remaining Derek McInnes made his final change when May was replaced by Maynard in a straight swap.
Scott Wright added a directness to the Aberdeen attack that was missing before his introduction and almost brought a goal back when his run and cross on the touchline was deflected into the side netting by a hooped shirt.
In the 84th minute The Dons had a penalty shout when Brown cleared the ball off his hand in the area but it wasn’t deemed to be a hand ball by the referee.
The final chance of the ninety minutes was in front of the Aberdeen goal but Considine was there to deny Hayes at the back post as he turned the ball behind for a corner. The Dons partially cleared the corner before the ball fell to Sinclair who stung the palms of Lewis with a low shot, McKenna cleared the rebound.
It was a disappointing night for The Dons after a great start to the season. The side must now pick themselves back up ahead of the visit of Ross County on Saturday.
FT. Aberdeen 0 Celtic 3