Dedryck Boyata continued his recent emergence as a key component of Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic juggernaut as their unrelenting progress towards the retention of the Premiership title continued.
The Belgian international defender scored the only goal of an often attritional contest which saw the Scottish champions extend their unbeaten domestic record this season to 28 games with an 18th consecutive league victory.
Boyata has now scored twice and helped keep four clean sheets for Celtic in his four appearances since being brought in from the cold by Rodgers last month.
He has fitted impressively into a remarkably consistent side who are now 25 points clear at the top of the table and prompting calendars to be checked for the likely date when they formally clinch the club’s sixth successive title.
For Aberdeen, it was the end of their recent run of four straight league wins but they would take some consolation from Rangers’ heavy defeat at Tynecastle which keeps them firmly in sight of the target of again finishing best of the rest in Scottish football this season.
Celtic were once more without a recognised central striker, in the continuing absence of injured duo Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths, but still carried a potent attacking threat which demanded a high degree of vigilance and concentration on the part of the Aberdeen defence. The visitors generally managed to fulfil that requirement in a first half which saw neither goalkeeper placed under any significant strain. That might have been different had Scott Sinclair been able to profit from a piercing through-ball in the opening minute from Jozo Simunovic but the winger saw his sight of goal snuffed out by Mark Reynolds’ alert intervention.
Kieran Tierney was quick to lend his support in attack as Aberdeen found it difficult to venture out of their own half in the early stages. The young left-back’s first surging run of the night saw him cut infield to drive a shot narrowly over from around 20 yards.
Graeme Shinnie was the first to spring Aberdeen from their defensive shackles, bursting away from Nir Bitton in central midfield and dragging a right-foot shot just wide of Craig Gordon’s right-hand post.
While Celtic dominated possession, much of the play was fragmented with both teams often careless with their final pass just as they approached a promising situation. Patrick Roberts appealed animatedly for a penalty for handball against Shinnie as a jinking run was halted in the area, but his optimistic claim was not taken up by his team-mates.
Shay Logan collected the first booking of the evening for a cynical challenge on Celtic captain Scott Brown, an illustration of the often fractious nature of proceedings. Shay Taylor almost played Aberdeen into trouble with a slack pass back which allowed Roberts to burst through the middle.
His progress was checked by Logan, however, and Tierney shot over the top as he got on to the loose ball.
Aberdeen gradually showed more attacking ambition as the interval approached. Boyata had to make a brilliantly timed headed clearance to prevent a dangerous Niall McGinn cross finding the unmarked Adam Rooney as McInnes’ men enjoyed their first sustained spell on the front foot.
It was Celtic, however, who carved out the final threatening move of the first half. Callum McGregor found Roberts on the right and his low cross looked set to present Sinclair with a simple finish until Dons captain Ryan Jack made a crucial challenge.
Rodgers’ men reapplied themselves to their task with greater intensity and higher tempo after the break. Tactically, Aberdeen continued to prove a tough nut to crack as they restricted the space available to Celtic in and around their penalty area.
The home side’s persistence finally paid off, however, when they made their 57th-minute breakthrough with the most straightforward of set-piece goals. Jonny Hayes, limited to defensive work for most of the evening, conceded the free-kick when he crudely halted another Tierney charge down the left. Sinclair took charge of the situation, guiding the ball towards the near post when Boyata rose powerfully ahead of Ash Taylor to plant an unstoppable header into the roof of the net.
Celtic sustained that momentum as they looked to put the game beyond Aberdeen as quickly as possible and Sinclair was unfortunate to see a curling right-foot shot from the edge of the penalty area strike the crossbar.
Aberdeen were finding it increasingly difficult to subdue Sinclair’s pace and creativity, as bookings for Shinnie and Taylor for fouls on the winger illustrated.
With a second goal proving elusive, Aberdeen remained in contention until the end but the closest they came to an equaliser was when Andrew Considine sent a header straight into the arms of Gordon after being picked out by a Logan cross.
Celtic have now won their last 24 league games at Parkhead against the Dons, a run stretching back to 2004. For all Aberdeen’s commitment and energy here, it was a sequence which the champions deserved to extend.