Celtic 1 Aberdeen 0: Celtic's Pole stars guide leaders home

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The Independent Football

This time of year is usually kind to men in red, but the east end of Glasgow remains inhospitable whatever the season. Just like Manchester United 11 days earlier, Aberdeen went home with nothing thanks again to a spectacular intervention by Artur Boruc.

The Polish goalkeeper, whose last-gasp penalty save thwarted Louis Saha and sent Celtic into the final 16 of the Champions' League, maintained their surge towards another Scottish Premier League title with a stunning injury-time save from Russell Anderson's header. His compatriot, Maciej Zurawski, secured the vital goal which nudged Celtic to a 16-point lead over their visitors and Rangers with a fine 72nd-minute strike.

The prospect of a midweek trip to Copenhagen must have reinvigorated Thomas Gravesen, for the Dane, who had missed last week's draw at Hibernian with a thigh injury, recovered to play a part here. However, Celtic's other recent signing, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, was again absent with a hamstring problem, which forced Gordon Strachan to deploy Jiri Jarosik alongside Kenny Miller in attack. The tall Czech is a midfielder, but his prowess in the air has made him a more natural ally for Miller.

In the opening stages, Celtic enjoyed some aerial success as Shunsuke Nakamura's corners picked out both Stephen McManus and Jarosik, who planted identical headers inches wide of the post. Then Gravesen drew a save from the Aberdeen goalkeeper, Jamie Langfield, with a fierce shot.

Miller's pace hinted at opening Aberdeen's well-organised defence on a few occasions, but the visitors were pursuing a policy of containment and scoring chances were few and far between until Aiden McGeady unleashed a venomous drive that was touched over the bar by Langfield. Seconds before the interval, Celtic thought they had made the breakthrough when Lee Naylor's thunderous shot was parried by Langfield to the feet of Miller, but the striker, under pressure from Anderson, dragged the rebound wide of the target from just four yards.

Celtic's pursuit of a goal was no less industrious in the second half; it was just that the champions lacked any real flair. McGeady drew a save from Langfield after a deft spin but it was clear that Celtic required a greater cutting edge, and Zurawski delivered that when he came on after 66 minutes for Gravesen. The Pole's performances have been a pale shadow of his predatory act from last season, but it took him just six minutes to make his mark.

Naylor began the move with a long throw to Miller that was held up by the striker and delivered back into Naylor's path for the full-back to pick out Zurawski - aided by Miller's dummy - and the substitute swept a right- foot finish beyond Langfield from seven yards. Zurawski ought to have scored on at least three other occasions but Boruc negated that profligacy by brilliantly denying Anderson's header in stoppage time.

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