Football: Hignett puts Celtic on spot

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The Independent Online
Aberdeen 3 Celtic 2

ABERDEEN MOVED to the top of the Scottish Premiership after an incident- packed match here yesterday with Craig Hignett, newly arrived from Middlesbrough in the summer, demonstrating that he possesses the skills and vision to help the Dons challenge the Old Firm for honours this season.

Celtic were largely to blame for their own downfall - missing two penalties and losing Darren Jackson to a red card - but Aberdeen showed that few sides heading north this season can expect an easy ride.

Celtic, the defending champions, ran the game for most of the first half without being able to create many clear chances although both Henrik Larsson and Jackson shot wide from good positions. The visitors were stunned when Aberdeen took the lead in the 38th minute with their first shot on goal. A free-kick was headed down towards Mark Perry, who lobbed the ball into the top corner of the net.

Celtic's fortunes fluctuated wildly in the second half. They wasted a glorious chance to equalise and within the space of 10 minutes found themselves three goals behind.

Simon Donnelly drove a penalty kick against the post in the 49th minute after Russell Anderson had handled the ball. Six minutes later Regi Blinker, attempting to defend a free-kick, headed the ball back towards Jonathon Gould only to discover his goalkeeper had ventured from the goalline and the ball rolled into the vacant net.

Four minutes later Hignett added a third for the home side after taking the ball round Gould from a through-ball supplied by Eoin Jess.

Celtic's fight back produced a drive by Jackie McNamara which was held by Jim Leighton, the Aberdeen goalkeeper, and Harald Brattbakk drove a shot across the goal. In the 68th minute, Larsson headed home a Blinker cross to give Celtic some hope, but a penalty miss three minutes later was to deflate their chances of taking anything from the game.

A foul by Derek Whyte on Paul Lambert resulted in the spot kick, taken by Craig Burley. Leighton, however, dived to his left to pull off a save and then blocked the rebound.

With 10 minutes remaining Jackson was ordered off for a second caution and he was followed off the field three minutes later by David Rowson of Aberdeen, who was also shown a second yellow card. In the game's closing moments, Celtic were awarded a third penalty. Larsson shouldered the responsibility, sending his shot past Leighton to allow Celtic some comfort on a bad day.

Goals: Perry 1-0 (38): Blinker og 2-0 (55); Hignett 3-0 (59); Larsson 3-1 (68); Larsson pen 3-2 (90).

Aberdeen (4-4-2): Leighton; Anderson, Inglis, Whyte, Smith; Jess, (Buchan, 85), Perry, Rowson, Kiriakov; Hignett, Dodds.

Substitutes not used: Dow, Gillies, Young, Stillie (gk).

Celtic (3-4-3): Gould; Annoni, Rieper, Boyd; McNamara, Burley, Lambert, Blinker; Larsson, Jackson, Donnelly (Brattbakk 63). Substitutes not used: Mackay, McBride, Burchill, Kerr (gk).

Referee: W Young (Clarkston).

Bookings: Aberdeen Jess, Rowson; Celtic Lambert, Jackson, McNamara, Blinker: Sent off: Aberdeen Rowson; Celtic Jackson.

Man of the match: Hignett.

Attendance: 16,640.

A brilliant double save by the Dutch goalkeeper Sieb Dykstra in the last minute earned 10-man Dundee United a surprise point against Hearts yesterday. United's Steve Thompson was sent for an innocuous-looking tackle on Gary Locke late in the game.