Celtic 1-0 Aberdeen: Anthony Stokes sinks Dons as Celtic go five points clear at top of SPL

Hoops uninspiring but cash in on Rangers defeat
An Anthony Stokes strike nudged Celtic to victory over Aberdeen at Celtic Park and into a five-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League.

On a day where Neil Lennon criticised Celtic supporters for creating an edgy atmosphere at Parkhead, Stokes kept a cool head in rounding Dons keeper Jamie Langfield midway through the first half to condemn Aberdeen to their first defeat in seven matches.

Aware of a lunch-time slip up by their bitter rivals Rangers, who were defeated 1-0 by Hearts at Tynecastle, Celtic made one enforced change from the side which won so convincingly at Hibernian last week, with Niall McGinn taking over the right midfield berth from the suspended James Forrest.

Aberdeen made three changes to the side which beat St Mirren last week, with Celtic old boy Paul Hartley returning to the XI, keen to ensure the visitors would not suffer a 9-0 drubbing as they did on their last visit to Celtic Park in November.

Craig Brown’s side suffered a scare in the warm up when keeper Langfield dislocated his finger, but the stopper quickly had the digit put back in place by the club doctor.

A tight opening quarter saw both sides struggle to create opportunities and long-range efforts from Stokes, Paddy McCourt and Scott Brown failed to test the patched up Aberdeen keeper.

The duo of Stokes and Gary Hooper were however threatening to spark Celtic into life and it was their combination which sliced the Aberdeen defence open for the crucial breakthrough.

On 27 minutes, Hooper picked the ball up deep in the Aberdeen half and slid Stokes into the clear for him to notch his eighth league goal of the campaign.

Moments later, the duo were at it again, ending a Celtic break-away with a one-two, only for Langfield to deny Stokes with a miraculous save and ensure the deficit remained at one at the interval.

The second half saw the men from Pittodrie endeavour to create an equaliser but efforts from range were again all they had to show for their industry. Chris Maguire coming closest on two occasions, but both efforts flashed wide.

Only late on did things open up as Aberdeen chased for the leveller and committed more men forward as they tried to get more crosses into the box. Their adventure almost paid off, but Bulgarian Nikola Vujadinovic headed wide.

Aberdeen’s efforts to grab a point left space for Celtic to ease the nerves of home support and debutant Freddie Ljungberg used the extra space to create a stoppage time opportunity for McGinn, only for the 23-year-old to be denied by a last-ditch tackle.

Celtic's next match comes against Hearts at Celtic Park on Wednesday evening.

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