Dons offer Celtic little resistance

Aberdeen 1 Celtic 3
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Aberdeen did not quite roll out the red carpet for Celtic, but they stood meekly by as the champions-elect walked all over them to secure their 20th successive win and bring the Scottish Premier League title a step closer.

Twenty years ago, Pittodrie was a fortress as two European trophies sat in the boardroom and Alex Ferguson was annexing the League championship with three wins in six seasons, but yesterday Stilian Petrov, Henrik Larsson and Stephen Pearson put the game beyond reach before Aberdeen could summon a response.

Now it is Martin O'Neill who has the keys to the Scottish football kingdom and his side look unstoppable; they were never required to break sweat in an encounter cloaked in torpor.

Larsson could have scored after just five minutes when he adjusted his body swiftly to steer a shot just wide of the target. Had it not been for David Preece, the home side would have been down after 17 minutes, when John Hartson rose to plant a downward header from Jackie McNamara's free-kick that was about to creep in at the post until the goalkeeper threw himself to his left to claw the ball clear.

Seconds later, Larsson almost contributed a freak goal after Alexander Diamond's clearance ricocheted off the striker's shins and struck the bar, but there was nothing lucky about the goal that finally broke the deadlock on the half-hour.

Chris Sutton worked tirelessly on the left to hold up a long ball and then transferred it, via Hartson, to Larsson, whose knockdown fell to Petrov on the edge of the box. The Bulgarian conjured up a left-foot volley that beat Preece down at the post.

Aberdeen briefly threatened to restore parity when Chris Clark produced a searing shot from 25 yards that Celtic goalkeeper Robert Douglas pushed round the post. However, there was no way back for the Dons when Larsson doubled Celtic's lead in the 43rd minute.

It was a reward for Celtic's patient build-up as McNamara delivered a cross for Larsson, who had eluded Diamond, and the striker deftly angled a side-foot volley past Preece.

Celtic took a tighter grip of the proceedings in the second half, with Neil Lennon's industry in midfield establishing control. Aberdeen's young side seemed overwhelmed and it was little surprise that they were carved apart for Pearson to score Celtic's third in 58 minutes.

It was the Scotland midfielder's first goal for the club since signing from Motherwell in the transfer window, but he will pay tribute to Sutton and Larsson, as the latter seized on the English player's knockdown and thrashed a shot only partly halted by Diamond's lunge, allowing Pearson to stab it in from close range.

Aberdeen did narrow the margin of defeat when Steve Tosh struck just four minutes later. Clark's shot broke off John Kennedy for Tosh to pounce from six yards.

Aberdeen 1
Tosh 62

Celtic 3
Petrov 30, Larsson 43, Pearson 58

Half-time: 0-2 Attendance: 16,452