Celtic extended their lead at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership with a 1-0 victory over second-placed Aberdeen at Pittodrie. Below, we take a look at five takeaways from the lunchtime kick-off.
Celtic will be fine, at least domestically, without Kieran Tierney
The news that Kieran Tierney will miss the next two months or so is a blow to Celtic, though he will be more sorely missed by Scotland, especially given that Andy Robertson has already been ruled out for the trip to Wembley.
On today’s performance, it may yet prove less of a hindrance to Celtic. Former PFA Scotland players’ player of the year Emilio Izaguirre was Tierney’s replacement and dutifully dealt with the attacking threats of Niall McGinn and Jonny Hayes - depending on which player had drifted right at any given moment - and Wes Burns later on in the match.
It may well work to their advantage in the Champions League as well. Tierney is understandably still finding his feet in what is a major step up in class and intensity, while Izaguirre has more experience of the big occasion.
Andy Considine has gone up another gear at left-back
For years Andy Considine was shoe-horned into the Aberdeen side at left-back - not quite trusted to play centre-back for Craig Brown but a tall option at full-back for when it came to the former Scotland manager’s inevitable game of who can get the most corners.
Under Derek McInnes, Considine has made the position his own but has had a tendency, on occasion, to drop out for Graeme Shinnie to drop back in from midfield. This season Considine has been almost ever-present and has also taken his game to the next level in the process.
He’s more comfortable with his left foot now - as evidence by a neatly clipped through ball into the channel for Burns during the opening 20 minutes - and poses more of a goal threat. Considine found the target with a well-executed volley versus Kilmarnock, should have scored in the following match versus Ross County, and will feel he should have done better when presented with the opportunity in this match. Each has come at the back post, be it from open play or a set-piece - where he has perfected sneaking in unopposed.
Derek McInnes likes to spring a surprise in the big matches
In a previous meeting between the sides at Pittodrie last season, Hayes was moved into an attacking role with Adam Rooney just behind. The thinking was Hayes’ pace would stretch Celtic’s high defensive line and would look to take advantage of their relative lack of pace when they did push high.
The decision to drop Rooney, along with James Maddison, followed similar logic. A pacey front three of McGinn, Burns and McGinn was preferred to the more reliable goal-threat of Rooney and the trickery of Maddison.
It worked initially as Aberdeen enjoyed a dominant opening 20 minutes or so. They didn’t create anything meaningful, however, and therefore failed to press home their advantage. When Celtic did begin to gain a foothold in the game, there was an air of inevitability about their goal. Afterwards, Aberdeen struggled to create afterwards, even when Rooney and Maddison were introduced shortly after half-time.
Tom Rogic only scores amazing goals
The goal was, as they say, worthy of winning any game. Tom Rogic appears to have a knack for crucial goals, he has a knack for the spectacular as well. Luring at the edge of the box as Aberdeen defended a cross into the penalty area, Rogic deftly controlled the loose ball before showing excellent technique to cut across the ball on the half-volley with the outside of his boot and out of the reach of Joe Lewis.
It was the Australian’s seventh goal of the season, following on from his 10 last campaign and, just like last season, it seems like each goal is better than the last. Ironically, when presented with a much easier chance, after racing on to Mikael Lustig’s high through ball, Rogic could only shoot straight at Lewis.
Aberdeen have upgraded on Danny Ward
Ok, we may not have learned this today, but it was at least confirmed. Lewis made a commanding start to his Aberdeen career, though encouraged some questions over his ability with an unfortunate mistake versus Maribor during their Europa League exit.
That error can surely now be put to bed as “one of those things”. Lewis has continued as if it never happened, turning in performance after performance. Against Celtic, although fruitless, he kept his side in the match continually over the second 45 minutes, most notably when he stretched his 6’5” frame to tip over a top-corner bound effort from Scott Sinclair. It gave him the opportunity to cause havoc in the Celtic defence in the dying minutes as he went up front for a few set-pieces. And that’s something we all like to see.