More graft than craft as Celtic grind out win over Aberdeen

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It may not be a scoreline synonymous with the swashbuckling image Celtic teams have sought to live up to through the years. But in periods such as the one Brendan Rodgers’ side currently find themselves, the ability to churn out 1-0 
victories is priceless.

Sir Alex Ferguson, who can safely be regarded as the ultimate authority on the subject, regularly claimed that those single-goal successes were as important as any other factor in the making of a title-winning team.

Scott Sinclair's cheeky back heel was enough to give Celtic victory over Aberdeen.Picture: SNS.

Scott Sinclair's cheeky back heel was enough to give Celtic victory over Aberdeen.Picture: SNS.

Against Aberdeen on Saturday, Celtic sporadically flirted with a return to the optimum fluency of Rodgers’ first two seasons in charge. For the most part, however, this was another win secured through graft rather than craft.

The most notable exception was the inventive backheeled finish from substitute Scott Sinclair just after the hour which secured all three points for the champions.

It was Celtic’s fifth 1-0 win in their last eight games in all competitions, a sequence which has seen them keep 
seven clean sheets in total.

That run has coincided with the return of Dedryck Boyata to the heart of the Celtic defence following the acrimonious 
circumstances of his absence earlier in the campaign when he was denied the opportunity of a move to Fulham.

For goalkeeper Craig Gordon,
who made fine saves at key moments on Saturday to deny efforts from Gary Mackay-Steven and James Wilson for an Aberdeen side who arrived in Glasgow with plenty of ambition, the rehabilitation of the Belgian World Cup defender into Celtic’s first-team squad has been crucial.

“Dedryck has been fantastic since he came back into the team,” said Gordon. “He has been an absolute rock back there. He is so solid and is marshalling the rest of the guys back there.

“It is great to play behind someone like that, who is so quick and attacks the ball. We always know things are under control when we’ve got him there. He is definitely our best defender at the moment.”

Gordon insists he and the rest of the Celtic players paid no attention to the much-noted statistic that this had been the club’s poorest start to a league campaign for 20 years.

“That was never mentioned among us, it doesn’t come into our thinking,” he added. “We just get on to the next game and try to win it. Things started to click for us in the second half of the cup tie at St Johnstone on Wednesday, then I thought against Aberdeen we played some really good football. We only had one goal to show for it, we possibly could have had a few more. But we will take the 1-0 wins at this stage. They still mean three points.”

Gordon shared in the delight shown by Sinclair when he broke the deadlock with his first goal at Celtic Park since January and believes the 29-year-old winger, so often a peripheral figure in recent months, is poised to become one of the team’s main men once more.

“That will give Scott a lot of confidence,” said Gordon. “It was a really tidy finish in a tight area. That is what he gives you. He has quick feet in that final third.

“It didn’t look like there was anything on with his back to goal and he produces a piece of magic. I’m sure he will take a lot of positives from it. It will be great to have him on form because when he is, then he is a massive threat for us.”

Aberdeen were left frustrated
by a defeat which leaves them in the bottom half of the Premiership table but Derek McInnes’ players also took encouragement from the manner of their performance.

“We are deflated at the moment as we feel we came here and put in a good performance,” said Dons defender Mikey Devlin.

“For spells I felt we dominated the match and moved the ball well. We caused them issues and Gary Mackay-Steven at times ran the match and it was some save from Craig Gordon to keep him out at 0-0.

“Against Hibs and Motherwell in our previous two games, our performance levels were not what we’d have liked, yet we won. Here we were 
closer to the level we demand of ourselves and we have come away with nothing.”