Yet the fact that Ange Postecoglou’s men could come out on top 3-2 at Pittodrie may actually encourage the cinch Premiership league leaders they have the purpose, as well as the panache, to retain that status in the final stage of the season.
The flair and fluency with which Celtic have richly entertained of late was in short supply in a sixth straight league success that extends their domestic unbeaten sequence to 24 games. Yet, ultimately their spirit was sufficiently willing. That said, the fates were also conspirators in allowing Jota to settle the contest with his second of the evening a matter of 62 seconds after Lewis Ferguson had headed in from a Funso Ojo cross to make it 2-2 after 61 minutes.
Aberdeen and their supporters were apoplectic over the pivotal moments leading up to the Portuguese winger darting into the box and jabbing a shot into the ground that bounced up and into Gary Woods’ net. While the home defense caused themselves unnecessary issues by failing to deal with an Anthony Raston header launched into their domain, its route to the winger came with Liel Abada in an offside position and blocking off David Bates.
It wasn’t the first break in Celtic’s favor across the evening with their second goal, and a first for Matt O’Riley also involving Bates – inadvertently. A low shot from the Englishman looked to be going across goal and in a saveable direction for Woods, only for it to cannon off Bates and jag, pingball style, at right angles to whizz past the rooted keeper. It seemed Celtic could make merry then, with Woods four minutes earlier failing to cut out an angled cross flighted in from the right by O’Riley to allow Jota to smuggle in at the back post.
So devoid had been Glass’s men, there had to be double-takes as these same players – save for interval substitutes Matty Kennedy and Ojo, replacements for Dylan McGeouch and Calvin Ramsay – set about their visitors with a snarl and drive they could not muster at any point in a one-sided-opening period.
They had threatened even before one of the Pittodrie team’s standard free-kick routines of sliding the ball low across the front of the box allowed Christian Ramirez to rifle into the corner of Joe Hart’s net. With their second, which made them only the third team to score twice against Celtic in the league this season, it appeared it was them that had all the momentum to push on for the winner.
Jota’s decisive strike was a punch to the guts but they never gave up on forcing the issue.
Little consolation, when they are now five league games without a win. And of little concern to Celtic. Stretched to the limit, in the final analysis, they came up with the answer required to a night that presented them posers that arrived in unexpected fashion. There are many ways to win. And while Postecoglou might always want to do so in style, even the Australian will recognize there must be occasions when it is simply a case of doing enough.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.