Celtic thump Aberdeen to take giant title stride

CELTIC took a massive step towards a fourth successive Scottish Premiership title after ending the 13-game unbeaten run of nearest challengers Aberdeen in convincing fashion.

  •  Champions Celtic six points clear with game in hand
  •  Aberdeen not won at Celtic Park in league since 2004
  •  The Dons suffer first Premiership defeat since November 9
  •  One goal conceded in last nine league matches for the Hoops
  •  Denayer, Griffiths (pen), Mackay-Steven and Johansen on scoresheet
Leigh Griffiths
Spot on: The former Hibs striker netted his ninth goal of the season to give the league leaders a two-goal cushion

CELTIC took a massive step towards a fourth successive Scottish Premiership title after ending the 13-game unbeaten run of nearest challengers Aberdeen in convincing fashion.

The Dons were the better side for much of the first half but fell behind eight minutes before the break when Jason Denayer headed home Stuart Armstrong’s corner from close range.

Leigh Griffiths doubled the lead from the penalty spot just after the hour after Mark Reynolds needlessly tripped Stefan Johansen in the box.

Gary Mackay-Steven strode forward to guide a delightful effort in off the post before Johansen converted Adam Matthews’ cutback from 10 yards to complete the scoring.

Derek McInnes’s side had their opportunities with Andrew Considine guilty of twice missing the target with headers while Craig Gordon was untroubled by shots from Kenny McLean and Ryan Jack.

With a six point advantage and a game in hand, Ronny Deila’s team are now odds-on favourites to lift the trophy in May after a third successive win over Aberdeen this season in what was dubbed as a decisive clash at a sold-out Celtic Park.

Like at Pittodrie back in November, McInnes will have been happy with his side’s first-half dominant display and some of the promising approach work in the final third against the reigning champions.

But the Dons’ best league run in 22 years came to an end as they ran out of steam with Celtic upping the tempo in the second period on their way to a comprehensive win – their ninth in a row in domestic games.

Aberdeen beat Celtic twice last season – including in the Scottish Cup – but have not won on their last 20 league visits to the East End of Glasgow stretching back over a decade.

The Hoops, who were knocked out of the Europa League by Inter Milan on Thursday, showed no signs of tiredness in inflicting what could be a damaging psychological blow to Aberdeen’s chances of even securing European football.

Their performance in the opening 45 minutes must have encouraged the 1,800 travelling fans from the Granite City but – having also lost Johnny Hayes prematurely to injury – it was in stark contrast to what was to follow after the half-time break.

After Denayer’s fourth goal of the campaign made the breakthrough, Griffiths eased the pressure by sending Dons keeper Scott Brown the wrong way from the spot after referee John Beaton adjudged that Reynolds had sent Johansen sprawling.

Celtic lost Kris Commons early on and his replacement Armstrong to injury but came at Aberdeen from all angles in the second half with Mackay-Steven curling home from 22 yards.

Norwegian midfielder Johansen then dispatched a fourth to the delight of the Hoops faithful, netting for the fifth domestic game in a row.

The Hoops host St Johnstone on Wednesday night before a triple-header against Dundee United in the Scottish Cup, league and League Cup Final.

Meanwhile the Dons – who announced before kick-off former Hearts winger Andrew Driver is training with them – will be desperate to recover quickly at home to bottom-club Motherwell on Friday night.

Celtic XI

Aberdeen XI

Referee:  John Beaton (Scotland) – 8/10
Attendance:  50,256

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