ABERDEEN manager Derek McInnes last night removed his team from the Premiership title race but refused to concede that any challenge to Celtic has evaporated with the 3-1 victory for Ronny Deila’s side at home to the Pittodrie men yesterday.
A Leigh Griffiths double that takes his tally for the season to 16 underpinned a win that allowed Celtic to open up a six-point lead at the top of the table, with Aberdeen now replaced by Hearts in second place. McInnes remained philosophical in the face of a defeat that leaves his team with only one point from a possible 15 and on the wrong end of a 12-point turnaround compared with Celtic inside only 37 days.
“I think it’s disrespectful to all the teams, not just Aberdeen, to think a league can be won by October,” McInnes said. “It was similar last season at this time of the year. Everybody said the same thing after we lost [to Celtic in November] and we then went on a very good run after that. By the time we met Celtic again there was still something on the game. It took until the third-last game of the season before Celtic won the league.
“You’d have to say that only somebody really foolish, who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, would say that anybody else other than Celtic will win the league at the minute. But it’s also wrong to say it’s over. Our fight has never been with Celtic. Our fight has been with ourselves, it’s always to improve and nothing changes.”
Deila delighted in a display that sends Celtic into Thursday’s Europa League encounter with Molde on the back of three straight wins. “I’m a very, very happy man, and proud, because to play four games in ten days is tough,” he said.
Griffiths has been the pivotal performer in that sequence but Deila believes the striker’s contribution can be even greater. “I think he gets more and more mature. He can lose concentration a little but he smells danger all the time, he sees when things are happening and he’s a great finisher,” said the Celtic manager, who confirmed captain Scott Brown would miss the Molde encounter because of a knee problem.