CELTIC appeared to put a bullet in Aberdeen’s title hopes with a terrific victory in front of the Sky cameras.
Craig Fowler looks at what we’ve learned from an action packed 90 minutes at Parkhead.
1) Aberdeen lack the mental toughness to compete with Celtic
Everyone has been at odds to explain how a team, who’d won eight straight league games, could then go five matches without a win, including four defeats. One suggestion was that the challengers lacked a leader on the park to pull them through difficult times, and that theory was lent credence by the showing at Celtic Park.
Aberdeen matched Celtic for the opening 40 minutes, but when they needed to weather five minutes of pressure from the home side just before half-time they couldn’t do it. Then Ash Taylor made a baffling error which lost all hope of a galvanising victory. From there, Celtic could, and probably should, have scored more.
When confidence was high, Aberdeen looked invincible. Now that the chips are down every game seems a struggle.
2) Leigh Griffiths is making life uncomfortable for Gordon Strachan
Celtic will be thankful for his continued omission from the Scotland starting XI since Griffiths appears to be a man on a mission, out to prove Strachan wrong for preferring Steven Fletcher and Chris Martin ahead of him.
His opener was top class and highlighted his predatory movement around the penalty area as he snuck into the perfect spot in between Ash Taylor and Paul Quinn, before showing off his uncanny aerial ability for such a diminutive forward, leaping out of his socks to power a header right into the corner.
3) Ronny Deila trusts Kieran Tierney
Emilio Izaguirre’s return to the starting XI against Hearts appeared to indicate Tierney’s appearance against Dundee United was nothing more than a form of encouragement to the young player. Instead, it seems the 18-year-old was merely rested for the trip to Gorgie as Deila showed no hesitation throwing him back into the line-up against the closest challengers.
Tierney responded with another terrific performance, getting up and down the left wing and putting in an inch-perfect cross for Griffiths to head the hosts in front.
Expect him to start against Molde on Thursday, particularly since his manager decided to withdraw him with 10 minutes remaining. A move that allowed for a standing ovation from the home support.
4) James Forrest is becoming a star
Having been prematurely pushed back into the starting XI in midweek due to Scott Brown’s knee injury, Deila was asking a lot of his flying winger to play two high-intensity games on only two days rest having only just returned from his own spell on the sidelines.
Any fears were quickly vanquished, however, as Forrest tortured Shay Logan in the opening 25 minutes. He would go quiet for a spell before turning it on again, scoring an excellent goal with a mixture of skill and composure.
This is Forrest’s most consistent season to date as he’s turned into one of Celtic’s star performers. If he stays fit – a big if, mind – then he’ll be in the conversation for player of the year at the conclusion of this campaign.
5) Danny Ward has been the league’s best keeper
Aberdeen would have lost by more had it not been for their excellent custodian. In the Dons’ recent slump he has been the shining light, pulling off four terrific saves at the end of the draw with Motherwell last weekend, before making another couple of stunning stops from Griffiths to keep the scoreline respectable at Parkhead. Craig Gordon is the better keeper overall, but Ward has been number one so far this season.