A GOAL just seconds into the match should have been the catalyst to an easier victory but Celtic needed a goal just seconds from the end to secure all three points.
Scorers: Celtic - Commons (1), Mulgrew (68), Hooper (87), Samaras (90); Aberdeen - Vernon (45), Magennis (53, 60)
Bookings: Aberdeen - Reynolds, Anderson, Shaughnessy, Pawlett, Magennis
It was a goal worthy of winning any match but it was a blow to the nether regions of an Aberdeen side who must have felt they had the match wrapped up.
After a contest like this one, Craig Brown is probably relieved that he is retiring from the dug-out come the end of the season. The Aberdeen boss has never managed a winning SPL team at Parkhead, and for the longest time, his players have struggled to carve out goals.
On the day that they managed to bang three in, at Celtic Park of all places, he still couldn’t celebrate victory. No wonder he feels that the time is right to move upstairs.
It was a defeat that hurt the entire Pittodrie side. The players slumped to the turf at the sound of the final whistle, their heads in hands, betraying their bewilderment at just how they had contrived to take nothing whatsoever from the game.
At 3-1 up with just 25 minutes remaining they looked relatively comfortable. But a succession of set pieces saw Celtic overhaul them in the dying seconds of time added on as Georgios Samaras’ lovely overhead kick proved unstoppable.
“I’m just embarrassed,” admitted Aberdeen striker Josh Magennis. He had scored twice but claimed the goals served as no consolation.
“It doesn’t matter if you score five, if you lose 6-5 they don’t matter. To be 3-1 up at Parkhead and then lose set pieces like that is so disappointing. The boys can’t believe what has happened.”
He said it was as bad as he has felt after a loss, matching any of the disappointment he has felt at defeats to lower-league teams in the cup competitions.
“Until the madness happened, we did well. We looked comfortable and didn’t feel under threat.” But the threat was there in the guise of set pieces.
It would have been nice for the Dons to get the three points to move into the top six and give their departing gaffer the end to the season he has targeted.
“If we had won that would have gone a long way to cementing that,” added Magennis.
Instead, Aberdeen were left lamenting what might have been.
Both managers wanted a reaction. Celtic had some making up to do after last weekend’s defeat, while Aberdeen were hoping to wrestle something from the match to enhance their chances of making it into the top six.
Neil Lennon thought he was getting the kind of response he had demanded when his team grabbed the opener straight from the kick-off. An incredible 12 seconds was all it took, Kris Commons, firing a shot from the left across Jamie Langfield and into his goal.
Given the paucity of Aberdeen’s scoring efforts this term, some may have believed that the game was therefore over before it had really begun. But Celtic weren’t firing on all cylinders and their defensive frailties were again evident as Kelvin Wilson was robbed in his own area for the equaliser a minute before the break and was again found wanting as Aberdeen edged in front just seven minutes into the second half.
The first goal was courtesy of Magennis taking the ball off him in the area and laying it back for Scott Vernon to slam home.
The second was a Magennis finish and that goal breathed life into a match that had been close to flatlining in the opening 45 minutes, the football looking flaccid and lacking real passion and penetration. The same accusation could not be made after the break and, building on that 52nd-minute goal, Aberdeen made it 3-1. This time it was Gavin Rae who picked up a loose ball and fired in a long-range effort, which was deflected past Forster by the outstretched foot of Magennis.
In response to that, Lennon sent on Samaras and Lassad Nouioui and suddenly the home side were taking the game to their guests, the comeback sparked in the 67th minute when Charlie Mulgrew drilled his shot home from 12 yards.
In the 86th minute, Hooper drew Celtic level, coming off best in a game of head tennis in the box following a corner.
But then came the winner. With just seconds of the four minutes of added-on time left, Samaras latched onto a Lassad nod down at the back post and, with wonderful technique, sent an overhead kick high into the Aberdeen net.
“People have accused players of complacency and not having enough desire but when the fourth goal went in you could see what it meant to them,” said the delighted Celtic manager.
“We are having a few defensive problems and we have to sort them out. We are giving away cheap goals but the desire to win was fantastic.”