Aberdeen 0-1 Celtic: A late Callum McGregor goal puts Ange Postecoglou’s side nine points clear.

Callum McGregor returned from injury to lead Celtic to the top of the Scottish Premier League table by nine points as his late goal sealed a 1-0 victory over a stubborn Aberdeen side.

Coach Ange Postecoglou’s team had control of things on a cool Pittodrie court, but looked like they were going to drop two points despite having 81 percent possession and producing 30 wasteful shots.

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Callum McGregor scored late on as Celtic beat Aberdeen 1-0

However, on the 31st try, McGregor finally broke Aberdeen’s resistance – which saw the hosts fail to score a shot on goal due to their desire to sit deep and absorb pressure – by firing from the edge of the box on 87 minutes for Celtic’s 200th goal under. Postecoglou management.

Booed full-time, Aberdeen are 20 points behind Celtic in third, and the loss marks their second home defeat of the season.

How Celtic found a way to win (again)

McGregor has been out with a knee injury since October but his immediate return to the starting line-up meant the champions were almost at full strength for their first game after the World Cup. Josip Juranović is the only one still in Qatar for Croatia’s third-place match with Morocco on Saturday.

The right wing-back option was substitute Anthony Ralston, whose early shot hit well into the Aberdeen box, with Matt O’Reilly chipping in the rebound off the loose ball.

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Kelle Roos saves for Celtic as the visitors go looking for the opener in Aberdeen

Gota approached Celtic a few minutes later, curling a shot towards the top corner after cutting inside from the left but Aberdeen goalkeeper Kelly Ross equalized for the blow.

On the other hand, Luis ‘Doc’ Lopez won a dangerous free kick for Aberdeen in spectacular fashion, running from one edge of his box to the other before being knocked down by Cameron Carter-Vickers. Only Leighton Clarkson managed to fire a dead-ball scenario over Joe Hart’s crossbar, in what ended up being one of only two shots made by the hosts.

But Celtic attacked back, as Ryo Hattat’s shot inside the penalty area went into the bottom corner and had to be cleared by Ross. Then Keigo Furuhashi rounded the Dutch keeper after McGregor played him in the back, but Anthony Stewart was on the line to cut in his effort from a tight angle.

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 17: Jota and Ross McCrory take action during the Premier League match between Aberdeen and Celtic at Pittodrie, on December 17, 2022, in Aberdeen, Scotland.  (Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Collection)
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Pittodrie’s possession was held by Celtic

In the second half, Postecoglou brought on Lil Abada in place of Daizen Maeda in the first half and the striker made an immediate impact. The Israeli winger was played into the penalty area by Ralston and squared to Kyōgo for a simple check-in, but the Japanese striker put the effort wide in bewildering fashion.

That moment sparked a flurry of Celtic chances, with Hatate and Jota both running from the edge of the penalty area and Abada seeing a shot close to the post that was saved by Roos.

Celtic’s powerhouse continued down the right as Ralston found Keogo in the box, but his acrobatic effort flew wide. Moments later, Jota’s cross found Greg Taylor at the back post – but the left-back struck his first time shot wide.

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Kyogo Furuhashi misses a great opportunity to put Celtic ahead of Aberdeen

Postecoglou brought on hard-working Giorgios Giakoumakis for his goal-scoring inspiration, moving on to fellow substitute David Turnbull – who fired straight at Roos – while the Greek striker saw a penalty-box free-header fly in with five minutes left.

But McGregor’s tremendous effort from the edge of the box edged past Ross into the far corner to spark jubilation at Celtic’s away end and a huge sense of relief for Postecoglou, Kyogo and company.

Late winner McGregor sparked jubilant scenes at the end of the first leg
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Late winner McGregor sparked jubilant scenes at the end of the first leg

Postecoglou: We should have won more comfortably

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou speaks to Sky Sports:

“I can’t remember a game where we were more in control and maybe we should have won more comfortably. It’s a difficult place to come to and the goal came later than usual. It’s a credit to the players, they were really disciplined and didn’t get discouraged.

“It’s really fun. There was one shot [for Aberdeen] In the end, however, we dominated the game. It’s easy to sit there and complain but the players have the energy and drive to dictate the pace of the game. There were some good opportunities that are usually thrown away.

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Ange Postecoglou felt his Celts side dominated in their 1-0 win over Aberdeen.

“We’ve done well without McGregor but he’s a fantastic footballer and we’re very happy to have him back in the side. I thought he was really great today, dictating playing from midfield. He was never really concerned about us scoring. That’s Callum, he’s a great footballer and we were Needed that today. He kept his foot on the accelerator just the right amount.”

Goodwin: Aberdeen haven’t done enough with the ball

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Aberdeen manager Jim Goodwin could not hide his disappointment at his team’s late defeat by Celtic.

Aberdeen manager Jim Goodwin speaks to Sky Sports Football:

“We were disappointed in the end, to contain Celtic until the 87th minute. We went with the game plan, trying to deny them space at the back. We frustrated them and hit them on the counter for long periods.

“It’s a little frustrating but overall, we didn’t have enough possession, we didn’t do enough with the ball when we had it. We defended well and didn’t get caught much. That was decided on a 25-yard strike at the end.

“I can’t say Celtic wasn’t the better team. They were. But we did well and we have nothing to show for it.”

Player of the match: Callum McGregor

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Celtic captain Callum McGregor was named Man of the Match after his goal sealed the win over Aberdeen.

Celtic captain Callum McGregor speaks to Sky Sports Football:

“I couldn’t have dreamed of a better scenario to get back into the team and then score the winner. I thought we were brilliant, committed and created a lot of chances.

“To go to the end and get a winner tells you about the mentality we have in the locker room. That’s what we’ve been about for the last 18 months.

“We don’t want to get frustrated with a low block, we stick to the structure. The manager is big on that. There was no panic and rewarded us at the end.”

What then?

Aberdeen host Rangers on Tuesday night, live Sky Sports. Kick-off is at 8 p.m.

Celtic’s next match is at home to Livingston the following evening. That match starts at 7.45pm.

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