Football: Celtic's blushes saved by Vata

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The Independent Online
Celtic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Aberdeen. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

THE TWO pretenders to Rangers' crown failed to take advantage of the champions' dropped point the previous evening, and despite producing an entertaining game with four goals and superb goalkeeping, the night ended inconclusively for both.

Defensive frailties struck Celtic again after Stuart Slater had scored his first goal for the club since his pounds 1.5m summer signing from West Ham. It was nothing spectacular - a 12-yard grounder after seven minutes from a Brian O'Neil knockdown, but was enough to send player and home supporters into rapture.

Already without Duncan Shearer, a victim of a training accident, the Aberdeen attack was further dented by the loss of Eoin Jess but not before he had equalised Slater's effort, slipping his marker and shooting past Pat Bonner.

With a little more than half an hour played Aberdeen conjured up a second goal. Full-back Mark McNally was dispossessed for Paul Kane to score with a powerful shot

The Celtic defence suffered a further blow two minutes later when the Pole Dariusz Wdowczyk limped off, to be replaced by the Albanian, Rudi Vata.

Parity was restored within two minutes of the restart. Slater made ground down the left wing and crossed to Andy Payton, who failed to control the ball. As the Aberdeen defence hesitated Vata stepped in to shoot home.

After that both goalkeepers produced super saves to prevent further score. With 10 minutes remaining Bonner saved a point for Celtic with a magnificent stop to deny to Paul Mason. In a grandstand finish Gerry Creaney nearly did the trick with a header against the post, while for Aberdeen Jim Bett hit the bar.

Celtic: Bonner; McNally, Boyd, Grant (Payton, h-t), Mowbray, Wdowczyk (Vata, 34), O'Neil, McStay, Slater, Creaney, Collins.

Aberdeen: Snelders; Wright, McLeish, Grant, Irvine, Smith, Richardson, Bett, Jess (Kane, 23), Booth (Roddie, 75), Mason.

Referee: R Tait (East Kilbride).

Despite finishing with nine men and being 4-2 down at one stage, Dundee claimed a 4-4 draw at St Johnstone with two late goals from Billy Dodds. Dundee's goalkeeper, Paul Mathers, was sent off in the first half, and they lost defender Jamie McGowan after using both substitutes.