The paths of Aberdeen and Celtic have crossed on the turf of Hampden Park many times in recent years, and no player has been more significant in determining which of the two should yield than Ryan Christie.
His inability to participate handicapped Aberdeen in a 2017 Scottish Cup Final which they lost deep into injury time, while it was his unsuspecting head which acted as the buffer for both Dominic Ball’s aerial challenge and the short-handed Dons’ chances of winning last year’s semi-final.
It was by more direct and conventional means that Christie settled the 2018 League Cup Final between the sides, and by following suit here he quickly brought Aberdeen’s worst-case scenario to life.
Derek McInnes will have been acutely aware of the extensive exertions required of Celtic in midweek, and of the short turnaround time available to their little-changed side. The last thing an opponent can afford to do in such a situation is allow the game to be settled early.
By allowing Christie, then Mohamed Elyounoussi – and nemesis Tom Rogic who supplied them both – the space to establish a substantial lead barely a quarter of the way into the game, Aberdeen wasted the opportunity to allow fatigue, potentially one of their greatest weapons on the day, to act on their behalf.
Though the scoreline tells the tale of a comfortable afternoon for Celtic, there is no knowing how it may have gone had they not been free to drop into neutral so early in the match.
Ironically, perhaps this was one occasion to which the overtly defensive selections which McInnes habitually favoured for this fixture, but has opted against this season, would have been well suited.
Had the Dons been able to keep it goalless longer, they could have come on strong in heavy weather; instead they were left flailing fruitlessly against the tide while Christie, his work already done, was home and dry in the stand.