Celtic kick-start league campaign with narrow 1-0 victory over Aberdeen
Celtic began the defence of their SPL title this weekend with a narrow 1-0 win over Aberdeen at Celtic park.
Celtic legend Sean Fallon, unfurled the league flag in front of a jubilant crowd. The former player and assistant manager was given a magnificent reception from the fans, with ‘Happy Birthday’ being sung around the stadium to pay tribute to the 90 year old who celebrated his birthday this week.
The game itself wasn’t the usual enlivening Celtic performance as they struggled to get ahead in the game and Aberdeen appeared well-organised, making it difficult for the home side to penetrate their defence.
However, with just 11 minutes of the game remaining a low drive from Kris Commons and a goal keeping blunder by Jamie Langfield saw the SPL champions claim the three points and start their title defence with a victory.
Celtic were without captain Scott Brown and Charlie Mulgrew for the match, and Georgio Samaras took over the captains armband in Browns absence.
In terms of possession Celtic had the most, but failed in the first half to find the net.
In the 21st minute Celtic almost went ahead when Commons forced Langfield into pulling off a good save.
Shortly afterwards Samaras coiled a shot towards goal but it went just wide of the post.
With less than 10 minutes of the first half remaining frustration grew when Gary Hooper sent his shot just over the bar.
And just before half-time Commons managed to create some space inside the Don’s box but his low shot was stopped by Andrew Considine.
Fraser Forster had very little to do in the opening half. However, Aberdeen started the second half more positively forcing a series of corners. A corner taking by Hayes wasn’t cleared from danger and fell to Scott Vernon who failed to get the shot on target. This remained Aberdeens only real chance to score.
Ten minutes into the second half Celtic made a substitution with Samaras, who had suffered a knock to his face earlier in the game, coming off for Kelvin Wilson.
In the 63rd minute excitement rose for the home supporters as Commons again forced Langfield into another save with an effort from 25 yards.
The Hoops made another substitution with Paddy McCourt coming on for the last 20 minutes to replace Beram Kayal. And with less than 15 minutes left Daryl Murphy, the Republic of Ireland international, came on for Anthony Stokes.
When it looked like the fans thought they may need to settle on a goal-less draw on the opening game of the season, Commons eventually found the net thanks to a fumbling error by goal keeper Langfield who gave an embarrassing demonstration as to how he earned the nickname ‘Clanger’.
The goal came when Commons took a short corner and got back in to produce a low drive towards goal. The shot was weak and should have been easily stopped by Langfield who instead let the ball slide under his body and amble over the line.
Former Celt Niall McGinn made his debut for the Dons. His pace caused a few problems on the counter-attack for Celtic but overall Aberdeen failed to get one shot on target.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon admitted that the players were tired after their midweek game with HJK Helsinki but he was delighted to pick up the three points.
"I'm delighted, because the opening game is always unpredictable to call", said Lennon.
"I'm always saying we're going to improve, and I know we will."
"We looked leggy, obviously the effects of Wednesday night took its toll," said Lennon.
"We defended well and took control of the game, but going forward we were a bit flat. That'll improve as we go along.
"The players put a lot into Wednesday night, and it took its toll as the game went on.
"We worked the goalkeeper, but I never thought we created enough clear-cut chances for the amount of possession we had.
"The players were coming in at half-time saying they were stiff, but it was about getting through the game, getting the win and keeping a clean sheet.
Celtic will now need to focus on the Champions league qualifying game with HJK Helsinki in Finland mid-week.