Fifa referee Steven McLean will take charge of the weekend’s first and stand-out fixture at Pittodrie as the top-flight’s top two go head to head for the second time this season.
REFEREE Steven McLean will take charge when Celtic visit Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership this weekend.
The 35-year-old Fifa official will make his first trip to Pittodrie of the season as the champions look to move further clear at the top of the table this Saturday lunchtime (KO 12:00 BST, live on Sky Sports).
In their previous meeting back in August, Bobby Madden sent off Dons defender Mark Reynolds and awarded the Hoops a penalty late on in their 4-1 win at Parkhead.
McLean will encounter Celtic for the first time since he oversaw his only other match between the sides who have finished in the top two in the last three seasons earlier this year.
He gave out four yellow cards and put in a good display in Aberdeen’s 2-1 victory over Celtic at the start of February – one of two defeats the champions suffered on their trips to the Granite City last term.
Craig Thomson had a busy time last September as the Dons won by the same scoreline, awarding a spotkick for both sides and sending off Dons winger Jonny Hayes for a strong challenge on Mikael Lustig.
Meanwhile, McLean will oversee his second Aberdeen game of the current season after their 3-1 win at Dundee in September – as the Dons’ Kenny McLean converted a penalty and Dundee’s Mark O’Hara was dismissed late on for a second bookable offence.
McLean handled seven Aberdeen games in 2015-16 but it will be his first match at Pittodrie since the end of February – a 1-1 draw with St Johnstone, in which he awarded the visitors a controversial late penalty.
Before taking charge of the stand-out match of the weekend, he made the calls at Dens Park for bottom club Dundee’s 2-0 defeat by Partick Thistle on Wednesday night – booking six players in his sixth top-flight game this term.
McLean – a Fifa referee since 2010 who refereed his first SPL game in November 2008 – has so far issued 67 yellow cards, sent off two players and awarded three penalties in 15 games this season in all competitions.
The eagerly-awaited contest – a dress rehearsal for next month’s Betfred Cup Final – will bring together challengers Aberdeen and leaders Celtic, who are four points clear having played two games fewer.
Elsewhere, Nick Walsh is to oversee Motherwell against Ross County, John Beaton will handle Rangers’ clash with Kilmarnock and Barry Cook has been appointed to St Johnstone against Partick Thistle.
You can see a full list of this weekend’s SPFL match official appointments here.
But Rangers boss Mark Warburton was furious with the award of the decisive free-kick – when James Tavernier was booked despite appearing to poke the ball away from Hayes – and angrily confronted referee John Beaton on the pitch after the full-time whistle.
It leaves the Gers seventh in the table with nine points from seven league games – in which they have conceded the first goal in five of them.
But despite a respectable display and his side boasting 63 per cent possession, Warburton must be concerned as their winless run in the Scottish Premiership stretches to four games.
Nevertheless, it was a fantastic spectacle for the neutral – featuring nine yellow cards – as a long-awaited first meeting since January 2012 saw one of Scottish football’s most bruising rivalries renewed.
As predicted, there was a frantic and fast tempo to the opening exchanges in front of a near full house at Pittodrie, with both sides – who reached the Betfred Cup semi-finals in midweek – taking time to settle into a rhythm.
Harry Forrester’s shot deflected behind by Anthony O’Connor before an Adam Rooney effort at the other end was blocked by Danny Wilson – illustrating both sets of defences were on top in the first period.
The first flashpoint took 10 minutes to arise when Joe Garner took offence to a foul on him by O’Connor, but referee Beaton handled the situation well, reminding them in no uncertain terms who was in charge.
A lack of control early on was emphasised by Garner’s needless sliding challenge on Hayes, which earned him a yellow card.
The ex-Preston striker made his presence felt throughout and he should have done better when heading Tavernier’s delightful cross over the crossbar on 17 minutes.
Tavernier’s free-kick from 20 yards couldn’t a way past the Aberdeen wall before Joe Lewis was required to make an excellent save, scampering across his goalline after Garner’s wayward shot looped up off Shay Logan’s foot and was bound for the bottom corner.
Jason Holt – on his 50th Rangers appearance – rifled a half volley straight at Lewis after Garner missed his kick from Tavernier’s cutback before Barrie McKay curled off target on his right foot.
Aberdeen sat deep for long periods and struggled to carve out any kind of chances, with a Kenny McLean drive tipped over superbly by Foderingham the closest they came.
But after a first half lacking in goalscoring opportunities, the second period exploded into life as the Dons – who introduced Maddison for Peter Pawlett at the interval – drew first blood in no time at all.
A simple long ball forward by Lewis was flicked on by Rooney into the path of the onrushing Hayes, who easily escaped the Rangers defence to slot underneath Foderingham.
The Gers mustered a positive reply as Halliday’s free-kick flashed across the face of goal and drifted wide, before Wallace fired over from range but an effective end product continued to desert them.
Aberdeen largely offered a sporadic threat on the counter thereafter but remained a solid unit to thwart the Gers, who sent on Niko Kranjcar and Michael O’Halloran in place of Forrester and Waghorn.
Hayes got clear again down the left and his low effort was denied by Foderingham at the near post, after the Dons soaked up a sustained period of pressure.
But the Irish winger was at fault after bringing down the marauding Wallace, who was released in behind by substitute Kenny Miller.
It gave Rangers fan Halliday the chance to step up and send Lewis the wrong way from the spot, for his second goal in as many games.
From then on, Aberdeen pressed for a winner and, as the end of normal time approached, 19-year-old Maddison supplied it in dramatic fashion with the deadliest of free-kicks – surely a goal of the season contender.
Rangers desperately tried to respond but time was against them as they suffered their second league defeat of the season, while the Dons recorded a first win over the men from Govan since 2009.
Substitutes: Maddison (on for Pawlett 45′), Burns (on for McGinn 78′) and Taylor (on for Rooney 90+1). Not used: Alexander (GK), Storey, Storie, Stockley. Booked: Hayes, McLean, Shinnie, Reynolds, O’Connor
Substitutes: Kranjcar (on for Forrester 63′), O’Halloran (on for Waghorn 69′) and Miller (on for Garner 77′). Not used: Gilks (GK), Hodson, Senderos, Dodoo. Booked: Garner, Wilson, Kranjcar, Tavernier
Referee: John Beaton – 7/10 Assistant referees: Dougie Potter and Andrew McWilliam Fourth official: Don Robertson
Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes:
“It was a sensational winner. The players fought hard for that. First half, I was really annoyed with how we played. Getting the [Jonny Hayes] goal gives the players that belief and confidence to go and get the win. They [Rangers] get a lifeline with the penalty kick. Wee James [Maddison], what a free-kick. We should be shouting from the rooftops with how good that is. We deserved the three points.”
Rangers boss Mark Warburton:
“We dominated the ball first half completely but went in at half-time frustrated it was 0-0. We gave away a schoolboy goal and for three or four minutes we looked a bit rocky. We lost our composure then got the ball down, then played. We got our rewards via the penalty and I thought there was (only) one team in it. I said to (assistant) Davie Weir we’d be frustrated to only get a point here when we have come and delivered a really good performance. I am never happy to drop a point, never mind three. I will be careful what I say about the free-kick. Everyone saw the ball move. The fourth official on the sidelines saw the ball move and made a comment. And yet a free-kick is given.”
“We’re obviously very disappointed. I think the first half we played very well and over the last couple of games we have played well but we need to start picking up points now. You could say that we dominated or that we were the better side but that happens in football. We just have to try to take our chances and be positive.”
Huge win for #Aberdeen. #Rangers should be concerned that they couldn't beat a side who were poor for most of the match.
After the excitement of the Old Firm, another of Scottish football’s bitter feuds is back as the two rivals hoping to compete for Celtic’s crown meet at Pittodrie for the first time in five years.
ONE of Scottish football’s most intense feuds resumes this weekend after being put on hold for four years.
Regarded by many as the next best thing to the Old Firm, Aberdeen against Rangers has often been a fiery fixture, which embodied the competitive edge to the former Scottish Premier League era.
With the Dons rediscovering their form in last week’s classy come-from-behind win at Dundee, Derek McInnes’s side will be primed to take on a beleaguered Gers side who have endured a difficult start to their long-awaited Premiership return.
The outspoken Englishman’s latest outburst seemed to have proved detrimental to both his career and Rangers’ season, but the experienced midfield man – now the subject of a betting investigation – has vowed to fight back.
The fiasco could not be more welcome or ideal, during a period in which the Gers have only won one of their last four games – and, even more worryingly, look disjointed and defensively frail.
But their regular League Cup keeper Matt Gilks, a former team-mate of Barton’s at Burnley, took to the media to insist it hasn’t unsettled the squad or affected their match preparations.
This was emphasised in a typically bruising encounter in October 2011, the last time the men from Govan made the trip to the north-east, when Kyle Lafferty’s clinical finish and a Nikica Jelavic penalty helped the Gers to a 2-1 victory, putting them in firm control in the title race.
But neither have fully established themselves as pacesetters having opened the campaign in stuttering fashion, punctuated by glimpses of brilliance and moments of madness in equal measure.
Heading into the seventh round of matches, both sides are adjacent in the table with almost identical records – fourth and fifth respectively, with two wins, three draws and a defeat from six league games.
Aberdeen had a more difficult route than Rangers into the League Cup’s last four, as recently as Thursday night, with Adam Rooney’s 90th minute header the difference against a stubborn St Johnstone.
It extended the Dons’ steady but unspectacular opening to the campaign but – like the Gers – their only domestic defeat thus far has come at Celtic Park, with Aberdeen on the end of a similar resounding loss at the end of August.
And both the Dons and the Gers will be desperately hoping for the win which would provide a psychological boost to their faltering bids in challenging champions Celtic.
While, from the neutral point of view, it has all the ingredients of a classic.
Aberdeen skipper Ryan Jack will be sidelined once again as he continues to recuperate from knee surgery.
Winger Jonny Hayes missed Thursday’s League Cup tie against St Johnstone after sustaining a hamstring injury in the warm-up but the Irishman expects to be fit to face the Gers.
Rangers captain Lee Wallace should return at left-back after being rested for Tuesday’s League Cup tie against Queen of the South.
Andy Halliday, who described taking over the armband in midweek as “one of the proudest moments of my career”, is set to continue in midfield with Barton – the man he had a training ground row with last week – suspended by the club for three weeks.
Matt Gilks was in goal against the Doonhamers in midweek but is set to return to the bench, with Wes Foderingham likely to come back in.
Referee: John Beaton Assistants referees: Dougie Potter and Andrew McWilliam Fourth official: Don Robertson
Fifa official Beaton, 34, has already had some eventful games and controversial moments so far this season – giving 11 yellow cards and a penalty for a dive, three penalties in 45 minutes, booking two players for diving in the same game and sending a manager to the stands for sarcastically applauding a decision.
But the Lanarkshire whistler will be hoping for a quieter afternoon in arguably his biggest match of the campaign so far – and his first between Aberdeen and Rangers.
You can read more about Beaton’s appointment here.
It was another early-season showdown at Pittodrie which produced one of the most thrilling games between these bitter rivals in recent times.
Reigning champions Rangers looked on course to suffer their first defeat of the season when Scott Vernon and Chris Maguire fired the Dons into a 2-0 lead inside half-an-hour.
But Kenny Miller, currently in his third spell with the Ibrox club, continued his excellent form at the start of the campaign by first converting a controversially awarded penalty before blasting home his second to level the scores.
Nikica Jelavic notched the winner midway through the second half and Aberdeen’s Maguire saw red late on as the Gers moved above Celtic at the top of the SPL on goal difference, with both sides winning their first six league games.
But the defiant former Brentford boss has shook off the haters and, after a shambolic display against fellow fierce rivals Celtic earlier this month, insists his players are ready for the challenge they face against the Dons.
He said: “They want to play in these type of games. It will be a 20,000 sell-out and an intimidating atmosphere and they will enjoy that. It has been five years since we have been up there. The fans are looking forward to it and so are the players.
“We are looking forward to the trip north. After what happened at Parkhead hard work is the only way of getting better.”
Opposite number Derek McInnes has questioned why his side have been given two days less to prepare for the game but insists the Dons will be at full strength and ready for Rangers.
Speaking after his team booked a League Cup semi spot against Morton, McInnes said: “We need a big effort from everyone for Sunday. It’s ridiculous that Rangers have 48 hours of extra recovery before a league game when there doesn’t need to be.
“Why our game was moved to the Thursday, I don’t get. But it is what it is – and we’ll be ready for them come Sunday.
“It will be a full house here, everyone wants to be involved in it. I think it’s a significant fixture on the calendar, Aberdeen against Rangers.
“It probably gets everyone fired up. They’re a good side, they had an impressive performance the other night.
“Rangers have got too much quality, having invested heavily in a squad that already looked good in the Championship, to consider them anything but a tough nut to crack. But we’re in good form. And tonight’s result helps.
“I don’t know about us being favourites. I can’t go and spend £2 million or £3 million and pay the wages they do. But we always feel we can win, especially at Pittodrie. Sunday is no different.”
Last month, he dished out a massive 11 yellow cards and awarded Hearts a controversial spotkick when Jamie Walker appeared to dive over Kieran Tierney in their 2-1 defeat by champions Celtic at Tynecastle on the opening weekend of the Premiership season.
The Motherwell official, who first became a referee in 1997, has officiated the 2015 Ramsdens Cup Final, two League Cup semi-finals, two Scottish Cup semis including one last season, and been an additional assistant referee for two Scottish Cup Finals.
A Category One official since 2009, he has established himself as a regular in the Scottish Premiership since his first game – Dundee United’s 3-0 win over Dunfermline in March 2012 – and is one of seven Scottish referees on Fifa’s international list.
Beaton, whose cousin Steven Nicholls is also a referee, hit the headlines last year when he was headbutted during a volatile derby in Saudi Arabia between Al Hilal and Al Nasr – during which he issued three red cards.
It will be the second time the Lanarkshire-based whistler will encounter both teams in 2016-17 already.
Beaton was in the middle for Aberdeen’s 2-1 win over Partick Thistle at Pittodrie on August 20, in which he sent off Thistle captain Sean Welsh who showed dissent towards him to earn a second yellow late on.
He also gave the Gers an early spotkick on their way to a 3-0 win over Stranraer at Ibrox in July’s Betfred Cup group phase in the first round.
Sunday’s televised contest will see one of Scottish football’s most intense feuds resume as the Dons and the Gers lock horns for the first time since a 1-1 draw at Ibrox in the top-flight in January 2012.
With so much time having passed, only Craig Thomson and Willie Collum have officiated a game between the sides out of the current crop of Scottish referees.
Heading into the weekend, Derek McInnes’s side and Mark Warburton’s Gers boast almost identical records – with nine points from six games – and sit fifth and sixth respectively in the table.
Nick Walsh will take charge of his first Celtic game when the champions host Kilmarnock at Parkhead on Saturday (KO 15:00 BST).
The 30-year-old is seemingly in favour with the SFA at the moment, with this his fourth top-flight refereeing appointment of the season already, having only been promoted to Category One over the summer.
But it is a reflection of his lenient and consistent start to the campaign – he has only brandished six yellow cards in his three other Premiership games, which unusually have all been won by a 2-0 scoreline.
But he was public enemy number one at Easter Road last weekend as Ayr shocked Hibernian with a 2-1 victory after Hibs midfielder Marvin Bartley became his first red card victim of the season for a challenge on Jamie Adams.
The decision came at a crucial time and led Hibs boss Neil Lennon to blame what he described as “a poor refereeing performance” for the Championship title favourites’ loss.
Walsh was one of the most card-happy officials in Scotland having brandished 123 yellow cards and 14 red cards in 32 games last term, as well as awarding 10 penalties.
The Glasgow-born official was a regular in the Championship and fourth official for numerous Premiership games in the last two seasons.
Walsh will be assisted by Graham Chambers, Alasdair Ross and fourth official Stephen Finnie, with Willie Young keeping a close eye on his display as the SPFL referee observer.
He has so far stayed under the spotlight in his top-flight assignments but could be in for a tougher afternoon with more focus on the champions and every call under close scrutiny.
Despite leading the table by three points, Brendan Rodgers’s Celtic will want to bounce back after losing their 100 per cent league record in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Inverness.
Meanwhile, Lee Clark’s Kilmarnock, who survived the play-offs last season, sit ninth heading into the weekend with six points from as many games and will hope to replicate their goalless draw in Glasgow last term.
You can view the rest of this weekend’s SPFL match official appointments here.
Thomson has a wealth of experience in handling high-profile matches which will lend well when one of the most eagerly-anticipated fixtures in Scottish football takes place in front of the Sky cameras on Saturday lunchtime.
Ronny Deila’s league leaders are a point ahead of the Dons – who are level on 15 points with third-placed Hearts and have a game in hand against Hamilton Accies next Tuesday night.
Thomson will be assisted for the 12:30pm kick-off by David McGeachie and Willie Conquer while the fourth official will be George Salmond.
The Paisley-based whistler missed the first two weekends of the season because of illness and was replaced by Willie Collum for the Petrofac Training Cup first round tie between Hibernian and Rangers at Easter Road.
He has since overseen four top-flight games and Falkirk’s League Cup win at Partick Thistle – brandishing 24 yellow cards, sending off Motherwell’s Jake Taylor at St Johnstone and awarding two penalties.
Among his highlights last term were the League Cup semi-final between Celtic and Rangers, the Premiership play-off final second leg at Fir Park, 26 Premiership matches and the Scottish Cup quarter-final between Dundee United and Celtic which featured three red cards and two spotkicks.
Edinburgh-born Thomson oversaw eight Celtic games in total in 2014-15 compared to six involving Aberdeen.
The vastly-experienced official – who has been a regular in the Scottish top-flight since 2002 and joined the Fifa list a year later – has been in the middle for three League Cup finals and three Scottish Cup finals as well as many Champions League and international matches.
He also went to the European Championships in 2012 as one of 12 referees – his first major tournament – and is among the officials vying for a place in next summer’s finals in France.
Celtic won all four league meetings with Derek McInnes’s side last season in games overseen by referees Alan Muir, Bobby Madden and John Beaton.
The Dons had won seven of their nine previous games since losing at Parkhead in September and could have moved above the champions if they were to record a fourth successive victory of their own.
But Derek McInnes’s side will be crestfallen with the result harsh on the Dons who suffered their first home defeat since the opening day.
Shay Logan, who was sent off after the final whistle for foul and abusive language towards a linesman in the tunnel, was named in an unchanged Aberdeen side from Monday’s 1-0 win at bottom-club Ross County.
There was an extra edge to proceedings, as a result, with home fans chanting their support for Logan prior to kick-off before a minute’s silence on Remembrance Sunday was impeccably observed.
It was as quiet as it got around Pittodrie all afternoon as an electric atmosphere was generated – and the Dons faithful were screaming for a penalty inside three minutes.
Peter Pawlett accelerated into the penalty area and went down under the challenge of Brown but referee Alan Muir pointed only for a goal kick.
The Dons were dealt a blow when, after just 10 minutes, Willo Flood tweaked a hamstring and had to be withdrawn as Barry Robson – another former Celtic midfielder, who turned 36 this week – entered the fray.
Celtic had made five changes of their own from Thursday’s Europa League draw against Astra in Romania with October’s Premiership player of the month John Guidetti returning after ineligibility and James Forrest made his first start since August after injury.
Anthony Stokes was fit again after a knock, Adam Matthews was preferred to Mikael Lustig at right-back and Lukasz Zaluska started in goal with Craig Gordon having sustaining a neck problem.
Despite enjoying plenty of possession, the Hoops struggled to assert any authority during the opening exchanges but created the first opening when Stokes guided a low sidefooter narrowly wide from Johansen’s lay-off inside the box.
The Dons, though, proved more than a match for the champions and it was they who made the breakthrough on 27 minutes.
Andrew Considine, after his initial throw-in was cleared, saw his shot spilled back into the danger zone by Zaluska and Rooney reacted quickest to bundle home his first league goal in six games via a deflection off van Dijk.
As Celtic upped the tempo in search of an equaliser, the Dutch defender was denied by Dons keeper Scott Brown with a header from Forrest’s corner.
The Dons still carried plenty of threat going forward, Ryan Jack slicing a 25-yard shot beyond the right-hand post when space opened up.
But the hosts were pegged back when Stokes released Johansen, who engineered a yard away from Mark Reynolds before clipping an expert finish into the far corner.
It was the first goal Brown, making his fifth Aberdeen appearance, has conceded since taking the gloves from Jamie Langfield.
The former Cheltenham stopper then had to parry a fizzing long-range effort from Johansen, the Norwegian taking it up himself to get among the goals of late from an advanced midfield position.
Forrest, who scored twice at Pittodrie last season, and former Celtic forward Niall McGinn both saw searching efforts fly over as an even first period drew to a close.
Hoops midfielder Brown was thwarted by his namesake with a 20-yard effort and the in-form John Guidetti nodded a Stokes free-kick wide in a strong second-half start from Celtic.
McGinn, without a goal in nine games, almost conjured a piece of much-needed magic for Aberdeen but his shot drifted beyond Zaluska’s goal.
Deila turned to Callum McGregor on the hour mark in place of Forrest as his side looked to turn their dominance in possession into a lead.
But the Dons had reason to be encouraged with McGinn inches away from finding the target, the Northern Irishman drilling another effort against the post after cutting inside of Adam Matthews.
McInnes introduced David Goodwillie in a straight swap with Rooney in attack at a point when the contest reached its feistiest point.
Jonny Hayes and Emilio Izaguirre were cautioned for squaring up to one another in a touchline tussle before Brown went into the notebook for an overzealous foul on Robson, who was also booked for a series of offences.
McGinn was the most likeliest to provide the decisive moment for the Dons, wasting another chance when he headed Ash Taylor’s centre over unopposed from 12 yards.
The hosts continued to have a foothold in what turned into a scrappy affair as Jack’s header was parried by Zaluska from McGinn’s delivery to the back post.
And their belief increased as, nine minutes from time, Celtic’s Brown was shown a second yellow card when adjudged to have brought down McGinn despite replays confirming there was no contact.
The buoyant home crowd urged their side forward as the Dons sought to make their numerical advantage count in the closing stages.
A Reynolds shot sparked panic in the Celtic box before Johansen blocked Jack’s effort following a long Considine throw-in.
But, in an unexpected twist to the tale, van Dijk was left all alone to stylishly guide Johansen’s corner into the net with his instep in the dying moments of regulation time.
The Dons roared back immediately with McGinn calling Zaluska into action with a 12-yard effort from a Hayes centre.
But they could not salvage anything as Celtic showed the hallmark of champions to produce a smash-and-grab raid which prompted an outcry of passion from a delighted Deila.
Muir, a Uefa Category One official for two years before being removed from the list in 2011, once officiated a famous 9-0 Celtic success over the Dons in November 2010 in which he sent off a player from either side at Parkhead.
Two months later, he dismissed Aberdeen skipper Andy Considine in just the second minute before the Hoops ran out 3-0 winners in his last experience of a fixture between the two teams considered to be the powerhouses of Scottish football of late.
Fifth-placed Aberdeen can move as high as second depending on Saturday’s results while Celtic are in third with 23 points from 11 games.