Diamond dispute incenses Celtic

Aberdeen 4 Celtic 2
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The Independent Football

The flipside of this famous win for Aberdeen is the infamy of defeat for Celtic, who have frittered an eight-point SPL lead to two points in a matter of weeks and could be off the top of the table next Saturday.

In a thriller played in a bitter wind that hurled North Sea breakers onto the beach a few hundred yards away, the Dons twice took the lead, through Gary McDonald and Stuart Duff, only to be pegged back by Scott Brown then Scott McDonald. Then Zander Diamond made it 3-2 amid confused scenes where even the player himself seemed to believe the goal had been ruled out for a foul by an Aberdeen player. With Celtic's management team going beserk in their dug-out, the referee signalled the strike was good after all. Diamond then added a fourth.

Aberdeen's manager, Jimmy Calderwood, muddied the waters about the third goal when he said that the officials had told him there had been no question of a foul being given against Aberdeen, but that the referee had been considering a penalty in their favour. Celtic's Gordon Strachan looked bemused more than anything at this explanation, although he lauded a "great game full of excitement and talking points, if not points for us."

The result was significant for various statistical reasons. Aberdeen had not beaten Celtic at Pittodrie since 2001, and had not scored four goals against them since 1986, when Alex Ferguson was their manager. Aside from when they lost the first Old Firm derby this season 4-2 to Rangers, Strachan's Celtic had not conceded four goals to anyone, in league or cup football, domestically or in Europe, since the first week of his tenure in 2005-06.

Back then, Artmedia Bratislava beat Celtic 5-0 in Strachan's first game, then Celtic drew 4-4 at Motherwell in his first SPL game. Until yesterday, not even the likes of Manchester United, Barcelona or Milan had put four past Celtic. Strachan described the Aberdeen pitch as "dodgy", and griped about the fourth official not explaining the logic behind the allowing of the third goal but ultimately he accepted his side had not defended well at key times. "We're hoping teams should have to work harder for goals against us," he said. "But we know we're still a good team."

His preparations were disrupted when his No 1 goalkeeper, Artur Boruc, strained his groin in the warm-up and was replaced by Mark Brown 10 minutes before kick-off. But Brown did not have a save to make from open play. Duff crossed to McDonald for the opener, and Darren Mackie for Duff for the second. Charlie Mulgrew laid on goals three and four from free-kicks. Celtic's goals came after good work by Aiden McGeady to set up Brown, and then persistent build-up play which led to Barry Robson supplying Scott McDonald.

"It would be a major understatement to say I'm pleased," said Calderwood, whose side jump to third behind the Old Firm. "At 2-2 it looked like they would run all over us but we got the third and it's a massive win."

Rangers closed the gap to two points behind Celtic by beating Falkirk 3-1 on Saturday, Kris Boyd scoring two of the goals. Rangers visit Pittodrie in the 12.30pm game on Saturday. "The Rangers fans will be happy with us now" said Calderwood.

"And hopefully next week they'll be unhappy with us."

Goals: G McDonald (24) 1-0; S Brown (25) 1-1; Duff (31) 2-1; S McDonald (73) 2-2; Diamond (75) 3-2; Diamond (78) 4-2.

Aberdeen (4-4-2): Langfield; Foster, Severin, Diamond, Mulgrew; Duff, McDonald, Kerr, Aluko (Maguire, 69); Miller, Mackie. Substitutes not used: Bossu (gk), Wright, Vidal, De Visscher, Mair, Considine.

Celtic (4-4-2): M Brown; Hinkel, McManus, Caldwell, Robson; Nakamura, S Brown, Hartley, McGeady; Samaras (Vennegoor of Hesselink, 62), McDonald. Substitutes not used: Misun (gk), Loovens, Mizuno, Crosas, O'Dea, Caddis.

Referee: D McDonald.

Booked: Aberdeen Kerr, Mackie; Celtic S Brown, McGeady.

Man of the match: Mackie.

Attendance: 18,100.