It looked for all the world that the Stephen Glass era at Aberdeen was on course to begin with two victories, and a totemistic first home success of the Parkhead men in five years, when the encounter ticked into the 94th minute with the home side leading 1-0. But then Mohamed Elyounoussi delivered a ball into the box from deep on the left that substitute Leigh Griffiths was able to meet, sending a jack-knife low past Gary Woods.
Glass will be despairing. After living on their wits in the first period, despite taking an early lead, they had contained a Celtic team that seemed to run out of ideas, with early scorer Lewis Ferguson blowing a matchwinning chance in smacking the outside of the post when clean through on Scott Ban. And with Grifffiths’ equaliser, incredibly they fell seconds short of a first clean sheet at home to the Parkhead side in 20 years.
Glass was so impassioned across the encounter – and seemed to infuse his players with similarly consuming focus – he constantly fell foul of referee Willie Collum. He was yellow-carded late on after being told to “calm down” with his “shouting and bawling” by the official towards the interval, and was apoplectic when David Turnbull escaped with a caution late on for kicking out at Dylan McGeouch.
The escape was a moment of fortune for a Celtic team under John Kennedy that appear more orthodoxically a hard-luck merchants. The team the Celtic interim sent out seemed to indicate, meanwhile, he is prepared to manage the hard way and park the building for next season that he talked about early in his interim tenure.
His stance is becoming a growing frustration for the Celtic support. Many took to social media to express their dismay that, aside from plumping for Greg Taylor over a Diego Laxalt all at sea for 45 minutes in the weekend Scottish Cup defeat to Rangers, his only change was enforced.
Kristoffer Ajer nursing a shoulder injury meant Nir Bitton earning a first start since January, but just after the quarter of an hour mark it was insult that was being added for Celtic in desperately familiar fashion.
Familiar woe from crosses
A painful theme for whatever centre-backs Celtic have fielded this season has been inability to deal with crosses. A corner from Niall McGinn was added to their grim collection when Andrew Considine as able to tower above all others and power it towards goal where, from on the line, Lewis Ferguson was able to knock in. It was the 19th set-piece goal Celtic have conceded in this sorry, barren season.
The encounter was framed by the fact that Celtic captain Scott Brown would be playing against a club he has agreed to join in the summer. Glass said on radio beforehand this would not be “a sideshow”. Maybe he meant it would be a sideshow, for that is how it turned out. Wtih Ferguson providing drive to a home side that began with the aggressive intent demanded by Glass, and Brown almost unusually quiet, the Celtic veteran wasn’t even the midfielder who tended to draw the eyes across the evening.
Across a first period in which Celtic gradually took a grip and produced some crisp football – despite always appearing vulnerable to quick counters – it was eye-rolling moments from Edouard that proved crucial.
Kennedy is certainly deriving a turn from his players, but things took a turn for the worse for the Frenchman even as he undoubtedly put his back into it at Pittodrie.
Three times in the latter stages of the opening half, it didn’t happen for Edouard – the third time not of his own doing. His goal radar seems to have deserved him, as proved when, from the middle of goal, the 24-year-old took an excellent touch to bring the ball under control and leave the goal at his mercy, only to slash it horribly wide. A couple of minutes later, after being played in by Ryan Christie he only had to touch the bll wide of Woods to score, but instead jab it straight at the keeper. And then, to put the tin lid on it, he produced a superb finish from another move in which Celtic had carved open their hosts, only to be wrongly flagged for offside.
Celtic’s domination then also comprised Ferguson blocking a header on the line from Christie, after the Aberdeen man had also forced Bain to make a fine block with a raking drive.
Griffiths talking point
The second period was more even and cagey. Aberdeen believed they should have had a penalty when Callum McGregor chased down Jonny Hayes in the box after he the Irishman looked like he would have a free run in on goal, but Celtic also had their close things.
Kennedy did shake up his team after an hour with Tom Rogic and Griffiths introduced, with a surprise appearance for Karamoko Dembele later on. Everything that can be said about Griffiths’ goal sniffing being at odds with his physical conditioning has been said, but ultimately the 30-year-old striker let the former be the talking point with his first strike since January.