Aberdeen 0 Celtic 1: Vennegoor makes Celtic's siege pay off

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The Independent Online

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink stole Thomas Gravesen's thunder at Pittodrie yesterday but there were no complaints from the Dane. After the egos of Real Madrid, the smell of team spirit is a breath of fresh air for Gravesen.

Vennegoor of Hesselink's decisive strike 11 minutes from the end earned Celtic's first away win of the season. It was the second goal in two appearances for the man Gordon Strachan signed just six days ahead of Gravesen, who admitted that his Scottish Premier League debut was as far removed from Los Galacticos as it is possible to get.

"The team spirit shines through these players," said Gravesen later. "Aberdeen was a hard place to come. The game has not changed much from when I left Everton but today showed how strong this League is. I'm going to like it here." Gravesen might have marked his Celtic baptism with a goal had he not been denied twice by the Aberdeen goalkeeper Jamie Langfield, before Vennegoor of Hesselink showed why Strachan paid PSV Eindhoven £3.4million.

Celtic's manager - back at the club where he and Sir Alex Ferguson made their names - admitted later that he did not think Aberdeen's impressive defensive resistance was going to be broken.

"Aberdeen had been unbeaten," said Strachan. "This was the hardest place we could have come ahead of Old Trafford [which Celtic visit on Wednesday in the Champions' League] and I'd be lying if I said I thought we would score."

This was not the Bernabeu. There was no time for subtleties. Indeed Gravesen had his own welcome to Scottish football when the Aberdeen captain Russell Anderson performed a crunching, but fair, tackle on the new boy after 10 minutes. Gravesen would later be booked for one of his own. Celtic's torrent of pressure ought to have been rewarded just before half-time when Vennegoor of Hesselink rose to meet Shunsuke Nakamura's free-kick to loop a header over Langfield, but Lee Miller got back to clear acrobatic- ally off his own line.

Aberdeen had much more of the second half but the arrival of Kenny Miller posed fresh problems and Scotland's midweek goal hero turned provider in the 79th minute. Celtic swept upfield after an Aberdeen corner, thanks to McGeady's run. The winger supplied Miller, who dragged the home defence wide before allowing Vennegoor of Hesselink to take over and measure a shot that took a deflection on its way past Langfield.

"Gravesen was fine but he didn't run the game because [Barry] Nicholson tracked him well," said the Aberdeen manager Jimmy Calderwood. "However, Scottish football is not the easiest place to come to. I remember Ray Wilkins and Trevor Francis having a hard time when they came and they were great players."

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