Celtic primed for test in Germany after defeat of Aberdeen

After conceding seven times on their last Champions League trip, it can only prove heartening for Celtic to head to Monchengladbach today on the back of keeping three clean sheets in a week.

Celtic's Moussa Dembele sees his effort saved by the impressive Joe Lewis. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

Saturday’s 1-0 win over 
Aberdeen was also notable for being achieved without Kieran Tierney. The left-back was rested for the 4-0 win over Ross County last midweek but was unavailable for Saturday’s clash at Pittodrie after damaging ankle ligaments in training. He is now out for two months, testing Scotland’s strength in depth as well as Celtic’s.

The Parkhead side rose to the challenge, Emilio Izaguirre stepping in to help his side negotiate their toughest domestic test with considerable comfort. Or at least that’s how it looked until the dying moments, when Aberdeen re-doubled their efforts to secure a result.

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It was still only October but such zeal attested to what the Pittodrie side felt was at stake; their rapidly fading title hopes. Goalkeeper Joe Lewis was even sent up front at two free-kicks towards the end as Aberdeen sought to cancel out – at least – Tom Rogic’s excellent half-volleyed opening goal after 23 minutes.

Craig Gordon was one of those who frustrated them, keeping out a header from one of his own players, Erik Sviatchenko, in time added on. The Dane had been spooked by Lewis’ close attendance as Aberdeen threw bodies into the box.

Understandably, Gordon was quick to refute suggestions that Celtic are not being tested after opening up a nine-point gap at the top, having played a game fewer than their rivals. The champions are now ten points ahead of Aberdeen, who were expected to be their nearest challengers again.

“It’s not easy and it certainly didn’t feel easy,” the goalkeeper said. “We know what we have to try and do to keep winning games. It’s really enjoyable the way we are winning games, although not at Pittodrie because that was a bit of a battle.

“Sometimes you have to win games that way and that brings a group closer together
when you come through matches like that. We are a good team and there is a good atmosphere around the club.”

It’s certainly a good way in which to sign-off prior to tomorrow night’s crucial Champions League Group C
encounter with Borussia Monchengladbach. Gordon is confident Celtic can rise to the test despite falling rather meekly to the same side less than a fortnight ago at Parkhead.

“If we can get everything right on the night as we did against Manchester City, we believe we can be a match for anyone,” he said.

“Do we believe? Of course. We believe we can do it in every game if we get enough of our players playing at the top of their game. If we do that, we’ll match sides, although it’s 
easier said than done.”

Aberdeen, meanwhile, now have to raise themselves for Friday night’s perilous looking trip to in-form Partick Thistle after losing two successive matches, scoring in neither.

But defender Mark Reynolds isn’t for giving up, particularly when he knows the coming month could see Aberdeen win only their second major trophy since 1995.

He refused to be disheartened by Celtic’s lead at this stage of the season. Indeed, he took comfort from their performance on Saturday ahead of the League Cup final against the same opponents on 27 November. “They [Celtic] are a machine who just grind out those league games,” he said. “They have found a new gear this season and are batting teams aside. The gap is there because they are winning games and you can’t argue with that.

“We feel we’re closer to them than the league suggests but it’s easy to say that. All we can do is try to pick up as many points as we can when we get the chance.

“I still felt we went toe-to-toe
with them and acquitted 
ourselves well.”

“We will take confidence from the way we competed and use it ahead of the League Cup final,” he added. “This was a big game for Celtic, they knew if they didn’t turn up we could punish them.”