RONNY DEILA has only rarely worn his heart on his sleeve as Celtic manager. More often than not, the Norwegian cuts a calm and considered figure on the touchline.
But Deila laid his emotions bare for all to see at Pittodrie yesterday as he sprinted over to celebrate wildly with the travelling support after his team’s dramatic 2-1 win over Aberdeen had taken them to the top of the Scottish Premiership.
By the time Deila emerged to face the media, he was in no mood to be any less understated as he tried to articulate just how much pleasure the victory had given him.
“It was orgasmic, if I can say that,” he smiled. “Maybe even better than that!”
To try and put his level of satisfaction into context, Deila referenced the arduous week experienced by his players who did not return from their Europa League tie against Astra in Romania until Friday afternoon.
Since suffering a 1-0 home defeat to Hamilton Accies on 5 October, a result and performance which placed Deila under severe scrutiny from many Celtic fans, they have reeled off five consecutive league wins in a seven-match unbeaten run overall.
“I am very proud of the team,” added Deila. “Since the last international break, our results have been a fantastic achievement. We knew it was going to be hard today because Aberdeen are a good team and it’s a hard stadium to come to, and we had been in Romania and didn’t come home until Friday.
“To come up here and win is a very good performance. It was hard today and the pitch wasn’t perfect for the way we like to play. But we fought all the time and got the win. It was fantastic and the fans are supporting us all over the world. To celebrate today with the players and the fans was fantastic.
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“The goal now is to stay top of the league. It’s going to be tough all season but I think we have fought ourselves back to the front and we have to keep winning games. Performances are better now, along with the team spirit and togetherness. That’s what we need to win games.”
Deila admitted he would have settled for a point when his captain Scott Brown was sent off for his second bookable offence in the 82nd minute with the score at 1-1.
“Of course we were just thinking about defending then,” he added. “We just had to stay compact and get something from the game. But what satisfied me was that we won the game with ten men and we kept disciplined and kept calm. You know you can get one chance if you are disciplined and keep your head with ten men. We did that and we got three points.”
Celtic got the victory without goalkeeper Craig Gordon who was unable to play because of a neck strain. Deila does not expect it to rule him out of the Scotland squad for the forthcoming matches against Republic of Ireland and England. “His neck was stiff when he woke up this morning and there was something after the game in Romania,” said Deila. “We didn’t want to take any chances with him.”
Deila was gratified to see the return to action of Scotland winger James Forrest, who played for an hour in his first appearance since August.
“It was very tough for him,” said Deila. “It’s been three months now and he was straight in to play. But we know how vital he can be for the team and we just need to give him the minutes he needs to improve. He has something now to reflect on and we can get improvement all the time.”
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes was left to reflect upon his team’s failure to make the most of several good chances to go 2-1 in front themselves before Virgil van Dijk netted Celtic’s winner following a controversially awarded corner kick in the 90th minute. “I don’t want to believe it but it happened,” said McInnes. “It was a game we looked more likely to win for spells than lose, so we are very disappointed.
“The performance was what I expected from the team. I thought we went up against Celtic and restricted them to very little. We created a lot of chances and didn’t make the most of them.
“Celtic felt they were going to be in a game before it, and certainly felt that during it and after it. But we want to be more than just a game for them. We want to make sure these are games we can win. Any time you lose a game late on, especially from a set play, the disappointment is even worse. For us, it is a missed opportunity. I don’t want to be saying we must take positives from the game. Of course my team was good at times and there didn’t look any difference between the teams, but I know we are a good team.
“We have to take responsibility for a few things that have happened. A couple of things went against us in the build-up to their goals but I don’t think they created too much. In the build-up to the first goal, we feel there was a foul on Niall McGinn on the halfway line and it should have been a goal kick for the first corner that was given and they scored off the next one. There is no touch there. We have been let down a wee bit, but all the responsibility doesn’t fall on those decisions.
“They were a factor in both goals but, from our point of view, for me to move this team on we have to win games like that in the future. Regardless of whether the corner should be given, we still have to go and head it. For van Dijk, at 6ft 4in, to score with the ball at his feet isn’t good enough.”
To compound McInnes’ misery, midfielder Willo Flood is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines after suffering a torn hamstring which saw him limp out of the action after just ten minutes.
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