Football: Celtic holding firm

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Celtic 0

Aberdeen 0

Attendance: 29,024

TOMMY BURNS in one dug- out and Willie Miller in the other. Both must have been shaking their heads in frustration and both will have spent last night longing for the good old days when they were players.

When Burns ran Celtic's midfield and Miller dominated the formidable defensive forces of Aberdeen a decade or so ago matches between these sides were enthralling. Good players seemed to be everywhere.

Perhaps that is an exaggeration fortified by nostalgia, but it is certainly true that many of the players available to Burns and Miller as the managers of Celtic and Aberdeen would not have got a look in then. Burns, in fact, admitted as much, and could not contain his disappointment with some aspects of his team's work yesterday.

In particular he was unhappy to see too many players give up possession in dangerous areas. 'Most of Aberdeen's chances came from our bad passes,' Burns said, 'and this is something we must stop doing. It will crucify us if we don't'

The passing, from both sides, was dreadful and it all helped make the game dull and untidy, offering little for the supporters. Indeed, one of the loudest cheers rang out when it was discovered that the leaders, Rangers, were losing to Hibernian at Easter Road.

Perhaps it is only fair to point out that Aberdeen had to play again without three key players, the goalkeeper Theo Snelders and the strikers Duncan Shearer and Eoin Jess. But they have been available before yesterday and still Aberdeen have won only one league match. That is not championship form.

Celtic, on the other hand, are unbeaten in 11 games and are emerging as Rangers' most powerful challengers, for the first time in several years. 'It's too early yet, though, to say whether or not we are good enough to win the title,' Burns said.

Always the realist, the Celtic manager knows he requires a few more players before his side are the finished article, but at least he appears to have found the right keeper in Gordon Marshall, who has emerged from Pat Bonner's shadow.

Marshall has played well since regaining his place and yesterday he made a miraculous save from Scott Booth midway through the second half. Had Aberdeen scored they probably would have gone on to collect all three points because Celtic had lost their way.