Aberdeen 0 - 3 Celtic: Hoops clinch eighth title in a row with Pittodrie win

Celtic's Jozo Simunovic celebrates his goal with team mates. Pic: SNS/Paul DevlinCeltic's Jozo Simunovic celebrates his goal with team mates. Pic: SNS/Paul Devlin
Celtic's Jozo Simunovic celebrates his goal with team mates. Pic: SNS/Paul Devlin

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It was a day when the past and the loss of legends Billy McNeill and Stevie Chalmers weighed as heavily on the mind as the future, in which Celtic must now decide which direction to take as they seek a manager who can pack a punch in Europe while also forging forward with the dream of ten titles in a row.

But it was the present that offered the players, staff and fans a day worth celebrating. With eight consecutive titles now safely bagged, there are players in this current crop who are edging closer to legendary status of their own.

As they celebrated the club’s 50th top-flight triumph which was sealed with a 3-0 win over Aberdeen, interm manager Neil Lennon was loudly hailed by the support and will now hope that he is given the chance to complete the decade of dominance he started during his previous spell at the helm.

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Arriving in February following Brendan Rodgers’ departure to Leicester City, Lennon ensured that the sudden exit was not allowed to de-stabilise the club. He has overseen 11 games undefeated in the final surge towards the title and the Scottish Cup final and remains a realistic contender to land the job on a longer-term basis.

He saw them over the line at Pittodrie yesterday thanks to headed goals from Mikael Lustig and Jozo Simunovic, and a late strike from Odsonne Edouard but Aberdeen squandered the opportunity to make things more difficult for the champions elect.

The home side needed a win to prevent a title party on their patch and, with an ongoing battle for third place to think about, three points would have been a welcome way of staving off Kilmarnock.

But, despite manager Derek McInnes being forced to watch from the stand after receiving a touchline ban for gesticulating at Celtic fans during the Scottish Cup semi-final, and being up against a team with two Players’ Player of the Year candidates, Aberdeen showed intent. They just couldn’t find the composure they required in front of goal. James Wilson and Sam Cosgrove will be beating themselves up after they passed up the best of the chances while the score was goalless.

In the 35th minute Scott McKenna picked up the ball on the edge of his own area and galloped forward, eating up metres before swinging a beautifully weighted angled pass in behind the Celtic defence, picking out Cosgrove, who saw his shot blocked by Scott Bain. The rebound landed at Wilson’s feet and he looked like grabbing a certain goal but his effort hit the outside of the post.

The game was open at that stage and raged from one end to the other, with Greg Stewart in menacing mood for the home side and James Forrest and Edouard both dangerous in attack for the guests.

Forrest, who along with team-mate Callum McGregor is one of four shortlisted for the Players’ Player of the Year award, hit a shot just wide as the action swung back up the other end of the pitch. But then Wilson served up another glorious opening, this time for Cosgrove, in the 39th minute. Threading a lovely ball across the box to the back post the latter was just too flat-footed to react effectively.

Celtic made Aberdeen pay for their profligacy minutes before the break, McGregor delivered a cross into the danger area and Lustig, having gamboled up the park and gambled on the pass, was in the right place to dive and head past Joe Lewis.

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Just seven minutes into the second half another header, this time from a McGregor corner, saw Simunovic head home the second goal. At that stage, the tension ebbed away and the fans made sure that everyone knew that they were having a party.

The icing on the cake was the third goal, from the boot of Edouard, in the dying minutes.

There may be a sense that this title is simply a stepping stone to the magical ten but players and fans still celebrated with gusto. In that moment, it was enough.

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