Football: Celtic gain sweet revenge

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Celtic 2

Donnelly 12, 70

Aberdeen 0

Attendance: 60,081

NOT FOR the first time, Simon Donnelly finds his place at Celtic under threat. From Pierre van Hooijdonk to Paolo Di Canio, a host of of interlopers have cast a cloud over Donnelly's future, now it is Marko Viduka.

The burly Australian forward is due to arrive next week in a pounds 3m transfer from Croatia Zagreb, but Donnelly delivered a timely reminder of his own quality with two wonderful goals which killed off Aberdeen and restored some equilibrium to Parkhead after an uneasy period characterised by only one win in the previous seven domestic games.

With Rangers absent from Premier League duty because of today's League Cup semi-final, Celtic were seeking to close the seven-point gap which separated them from the other half of the Old Firm. They were also seeking revenge, as it was a 3-2 defeat at Aberdeen in August which began the unravelling of their threadbare campaign.

Josef Venglos elected to leave his new signing, Lubomir Moravcik, in the stand and the Slovakian international would have been on his feet like most of this stadium in the seventh minute claiming for a penalty.

Harald Brattbakk released Henrik Larsson, who stabbed the ball around Jim Leighton just as the goalkeeper's momentum floored the Swede, but referee Jim McCluskey dismissed Celtic's appeals.

However, Celtic removed any inhibitions they may have had when Simon Donnelly put them ahead in the 12th minute.

Donnelly exchanged passes with Larsson, the Scandinavian producing an excellent reverse ball to allow Donnelly to burst through the middle of the Aberdeen defence and subtly lift the ball over Leighton.

Paul Lambert and Craig Burley were the reasons Celtic dominated the midfield battle, though Burley's rigor brought him a 36th-minute booking for a foul on David Rowson.

Aberdeen did not re-emerge from half-time with a change in personnel, but there was a change in attitude with far more determination now being shown by Alex Miller's side.

Indeed, Robbie Winters almost brought them level in the 48th minute, taking Gary Smith's throw-in with an exquisite turn before firing in a right-foot shot which Gould could not hold, but Burley thumped the loose ball clear.

Three minutes later, Lambert rescued Celtic when Winters' speed had taken advantage of a painful collision between Annoni and Tom Boyd, and it was no surprise that the limping Italian was substituted.

Donnelly may not receive the attention that his more expensive team-mates do, but the little forward's greatest attribute is his unselfish work for others, as he proved in the 58th minute with a tenacious run to reach the byline before delivering a cross that neither Brattbakk nor Vidar Riseth could finish.

Ten minutes later, only Whyte's leg stopped Donnelly's volley finding the net, but the striker would not be denied.

He doubled Celtic's lead in the 70th minute after Riseth had burst down the left and tried to pick out Brattbakk with his cross. Leighton pawed the ball clear, but Donnelly, arriving like a train, sent a diving header past the keeper.