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Second half revival not enough as Aberdeen lose 3-2 to league leaders Celtic

Aberdeen's Christian Ramirez (L) celebrates after scoring to pull it back to 2-1 against Celtic.
Aberdeen's Christian Ramirez (L) celebrates after scoring to pull it back to 2-1 against Celtic.

Aberdeen displayed their fight and quality in the second half against Celtic, but their freefall down the Premiership table continues after a 3-2 defeat.

This loss was a game of two halves from the Dons, who were terrible in the first 45 minutes but resurgent in the second.

Aberdeen were booed off at half-time and applauded off at full-time by fans.

Ultimately, it is a defeat that dropped Aberdeen from seventh in the table to ninth.

This 90 minutes was a microcosm of the Dons season – with the good, the bad and the ugly.

In the second 45 minutes, there was the good – as the Reds were dangerous in attack and resolute at the back.

The bad came in the first half as they were 2-0 down and completely outplayed and dominated.

There was also the ugly, as the Dons battled hard and fought for their corner after the break.

Aberdeen’s Scott Brown (L) and Celtic’s Jota during a cinch Premiership match

If Aberdeen can reproduce that second half level consistently, they will rise back up the Premiership table.

But, if they deliver that first half performance ,the slump will continue.

Manager Stephen Glass made a bold switch in personnel and formation at the break and it revitalised the Reds.

At half-time, the Aberdeen boss made a double substitution, taking on Funso Ojo and Matty Kennedy to replace Calvin Ramsay and Dylan McGeouch.

Aberdeen also switched from a back three to a back four and pushed Ross McCrorie further up the pitch.

The Dons went three in attack to match-up with Celtic.

Brutal reality is two points from 15 for Aberdeen

Regardless of the strong second half, the brutal reality is that the Reds have dropped further down the table.

The Reds have taken just two points from 15 since the Premiership emerged from its winter slumber.

That points return in 2022 is only one of many stats which make concerning reading.

Only five clean sheets in 33 games this season in all competitions.

Just two wins in 14 away from home – worry ahead of a Scottish Cup fifth round tie away to Motherwell on Saturday.

Aberdeen have now failed to beat Celtic in 12 straight games at Pittodrie, taking just two points from a possible 36.

You have to go back to February 2016 for the Dons last victory (2-1) over Celtic in the Granite City.

There were three changes to the starting XI which slumped to a 2-1 loss away to Livingston at the weekend.

Captain Scott Brown returned having been an unused substitute at the Tony Macaroni Arena.

Manager Glass admitted he has to protect Brown because at 36 years old he cannot play every game in the Dons’ congested fixture list.

Brown returned to face his former club Celtic.

January signing Adam Montgomery was ineligible due to the terms of the loan agreement with his parent club.

Matt O’Riley celebrates making it 2-0 to Celtic

Ojo dropped to the bench.

Reinstated to the starting line-up were Scotland international centre-back Declan Gallagher and McGeouch.

It was Gallagher’s first start since the 1-0 loss to Hibs in Edinburgh on December 22.

First choice keeper Joe Lewis remained out with illness, having missed the loss at Livingston, and Gary Woods retained his slot in goals.

Celtic created the first opportunity in the ninth minute when a clearance fell as far as Reo Hatate, but his eight-yard shot was easily saved by Woods.

Moments later the Hoops again threatened when Anthony Ralston swung a cross into the box from the right flank.

He found Daizen Maeda who had a free header in the middle of the penalty box six yards out.

Maeda somehow headed across goal and wide to squander a glorious chance.

A let off for Aberdeen and concerning Maeda was left unattended so close to goal.

The Dons’ slack defending would not go unpunished for long.

Disastrous defending gifted Celtic a goal in the 16th minute when Gary Woods came out to meet a cross from the right.

He didn’t get there and there was a mix-up with Calvin Ramsay and Woods, who both appeared to think one another would deal with it.

Jota nipped in to clinically fire in from eight yards.

Celtic’s Jota makes it 1-0 against Aberdeen.
Jota celebrates making it 1-0 to Celtic against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

A disastrous start plunged further depths in the 20th minute when slick build-up play was completed when Matt O’Riley hit a low shot from the edge of the box.

It took a deflection off David Bates to wrong foot Woods for Celtic’s second.

As the ball bulged the net, the boos rang out around Pittodrie from angered fans.

Celtic had been 3-0  up at half-time against Rangers and Motherwell in the last week.

It is not as if there were no warning signs about their rapid starts.

In the 38th minute, Liel Abada directed a 15-yard header at goal, but Woods comfortably collected.

Celtic had 72.4% possession in a dominant first half where the Dons failed to muster a single shot on target.

When Willie Collum blew for half-time, the deserved boos rang out around the stadium.

Concerningly that opening 45 minutes was nowhere near Celtic’s top level form of recent weeks.

Celtic captain Callum McGregor (L) and Aberdeen captain Scott Brown battle it out at Pittodrie.

Half-time: Aberdeen 0 Celtic 2

At half-time, Glass switched things up.

It worked as the Dons were far better organised and carried a threat.

The Dons threatened in the 53rd minute when Ross McCrorie flashed a powerful cross along the face of goal.

Christian Ramirez and Vicente Besuijen both dived at the ball and were inches short of connecting six yards out.

It was a far better start to the second half from Aberdeen.

The Dons then netted through a brilliantly worked training ground free-kick when Ojo drilled a low delivery into the box and Ramirez side-footed into goal.

Aberdeen’s Christian Ramirez celebrates after scoring against Celtic.

It was United States international Ramirez’s 14th goal of the season.

Moments later, Ramirez had the ball in the back of the net again, but it was chalked off for offside. It was a great finish on the turn as well.

A remarkable recovery was completed when Ojo delivered a free-kick in from the right again and Lewis Ferguson headed past Joe Hart in the 61st minute.

Within a minute, though, Celtic hit back when Ralston headed into the box and Jota fired low into the ground and beyond Woods into the top left corner.

Aberdeen were enraged as they felt Abada was offside and blocked off Bates when Jota netted.

Aberdeen’s players were furious with Celtic’s winner.

But it was a breathtaking spell of action where Aberdeen showed they were up for the fight.

And Aberdeen continued to threaten and, in the 68th minute, Ferguson’s 1o-yard header at the back post was saved by Hart.

In the 80th minute, Jonny Hayes had an effort saved as the Dons could not make another breakthrough.

Full-time: Aberdeen 2 Celtic 3

ABERDEEN (3-5-1-1): Woods 6; Bates 6, Gallagher 6, McCrorie 6, Hayes 6, McGeouch 3 (Ojo 46), Brown 6, Ferguson 7, Ramsay 3 (Kennedy 46), Besuijen 6, Ramirez 7

Subs: Ritchie, MacKenzie, Emmanuel-Thomas, Jenks, Ruth, Barron, Milne

CELTIC (4-3-3): Hart 6; Taylor 6, Starfelt 6, Carter-Vickers 6, Ralston 6, Hatate 7, McGregor 7, O’Riley 6 (Rogic 88), Jota 7, Maeda 6, Abada 7 (Forrest 88)

Subs: Bain, Scales, Bitton, Giakoumakis, McCarthy,  Johnston, Welsh

Referee: Willie Collum

Man-of-the-match: Lewis Ferguson

Attendance: 15,291

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