You don’t always get what you deserve in this game and Aberdeen found that to their cost at Pittodrie yesterday.
Derek McInnes’s Dons knocked Celtic out of their stride in a pulsating encounter, fighting back from the loss of an early goal to take the game to the Hoops.
That Celtic were there for the taking was due in no small part to Aberdeen’s committed display. The Dons, sensing this, went for the jugular – but paid a heavy price.
No wonder the Aberdeen manager was dejected.
McInnes said: “Our performance merited something from the game. We nullified the service to Celtic’s front two for much of the game. The only time they became active was on the counter and both their goals came when we were high up the park.
“Celtic get runners quickly in support to the main strikers but when I saw Ajer like a racehorse running by me down the right hand side you can’t but admire the determination of the boy to get forward and the calmness of his finish.
“With Andy Considine and Niall McGinn in the final third we put a ball in the box and 10 seconds later the ball is in the back of our net.
“It was harsh on our players but if we can keep that up every week it will meet our demands.
“As for Celtic, that desire shows you why they are where they are in the league.”
The Dons were in the mood to take the game to the champions in the opening minutes but their brave start did not prevent the Hoops from taking a 10th-minute lead.
It came from a simple long ball upfield and the wind took it beyond Ash Taylor before bouncing in front of Scott McKenna. The Dons defender had to readjust his stance and that was all the invitation Leigh Griffiths needed as he nudged the off balance McKenna before taking control.
McKenna and Shay Logan tried to hold up the striker but he managed to pick out James Forrest in the box. Joe Lewis saved Forrest’s initial shot but Callum McGregor was on hand to fire the rebound into the empty net.
Despite falling behind the Dons continued to ask questions of the Celtic defence as they chased an equaliser.
By the 27th minute the opportunity Aberdeen craved came their way.
McGinn’s free kick was cleared as far as Considine and the defender played the ball back to Connor McLennan. The winger swung a cross into the box which was flicked on by Matty Kennedy into the path of Taylor who controlled the ball on his chest before firing past Fraser Forster to make it 1-1.
Aberdeen swept forward looking for another and Forster did well to keep out a stinging long-range effort from Funso Ojo.
With the heat rising McLennan was then booked for simulation before Griffiths (dissent) and Taylor for a foul on Odsonne Edouard joined him in the book before the interval.
The first half was full of excitement. Tension would be the word to describe the second 45 minutes.
The tempo dropped but the Dons continued to probe and press for a goal and it’s testament to the grip they had on the game that Hoops boss Neil Lennon brought on Ryan Christie for Griffiths.
The change gave Celtic a rare glimpse of the Aberdeen goal 17 minutes from time as Edouard sent substitute Jonny Hayes scampering into the box but the former Don was denied by a fine block from Lewis.
Then came the moment that decided the game. The Dons, sensing a winner, committed men forward and Considine, who had a terrific game, won the ball near the Celtic touchline. But his cross was cut out and from there Celtic broke forward.
James Forrest received a pass from McGregor out on the left and he picked out Ajer, who had raced forward into the gap once occupied by Considine and the defender fired past Lewis.
For Aberdeen, it was a sickening blow. It would have been harsh had Edouard added a third late on but his close-range effort was blocked.