A game of fine margins was decided by some quick thinking and a moment of brilliance as Celtic claimed all three points against Aberdeen at Parkhead on Saturday.
Aberdeen were worth a point from their first visit to the east end of Glasgow this season and had it ended level there would have been few complaints from either camp.
But with one flick of substitute Scott Sinclair’s heel the points stayed at Parkhead and the Dons returned with nothing to show for their efforts. The day may have ended in defeat but this was an encouraging display for the Dons and one they can build on.
The last thing any visiting team wants is to concede an early goal at Parkhead and the Dons nearly came undone with just two minutes on the clock as Celtic worked the ball to Mikael Lustig in space down the right and the full back picked out James Forrest only for the Hoops winger to curl the ball over the crossbar.
The early warning was heeded by the Dons, however, and they quickly settled into the match with Gary Mackay-Steven finding space down the left while Stevie May and James Wilson were taking it in turns to lead the line for the visitors.
With the unrest beginning to flicker throughout Parkhead, Mackay-Steven and Niall McGinn had chances on the edge of the box to ramp up the tension but both wingers fired wide of Craig Gordon’s goal.
Aberdeen took heart from their encouraging forays forward and Wilson just failed to connect with a McGinn cross as the Dons searched for an opening goal. But the threat of the home side was made evident in the 26th minute when Odsonne Edouard unleashed an excellent 25-yard strike which beat Joe Lewis but came back off his right post.
Shortly after the striker was sent tumbling following a collision with Scott McKenna. Appeals for a foul were waved away by Bobby Madden and the Hoops frontman required treatment. He returned briefly but couldn’t continue and was replaced by Scott Sinclair.
Before he departed however, his side should have been a goal behind after a break from the Dons, started by a May challenge in his own half, ended with Mackay-Steven running free in the box. But his close-range shot was blocked by Gordon for a corner and Andy Considine’s header from the subsequent set-piece was cleared off the line by Leigh Griffiths.
The chances continued to flow for both sides at the start of the second half. The home team had the first chance but Lewis did well to tip a Callum McGregor shot past the post and the Dons responded almost immediately with a Wilson shot which was kept out by Gordon.
There was so little between the sides that it looked as if one goal would be enough and it was the home side who got it just after an hour.
Forrest made a surging run down the right before crossing into the box for Griffiths. The Dons managed to scramble the ball away, but only as far as Sinclair who beat Lewis with a clever backheel from six yards to secure victory.