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  • Celts hit 67 points as Boyata strikes again

    Celts hit 67 points as Boyata strikes again

    By: Martin Dalziel on 01 Feb, 2017 21:42

  • SPFL Premiership
    Celtic Park
    Wednesday February 1, 2017

    CELTIC...1
    (Boyata 57)

    ABERDEEN...0

    DEDRYCK Boyata’s powerful header powered Celtic to their 18th league win in a row and on to the 67-points mark as they overcame a dogged Aberdeen side at Paradise.

    The defender’s second-half strike, his second in three games, was the only goal in a match that was largely controlled by Celtic from start to finish but saw the home side’s chances limited, particularly in a first-half where the Dons defended deep and in numbers.

    The solitary effort nonetheless secured a deserved victory for Brendan Rodgers’ side and helped stretch the champions’ domestic unbeaten run to 28 games.

    After emphatically overcoming Hearts 4-0 at the weekend, the Hoops made just one change to the team, with Mikael Lustig replacing Cristian Gamboa in defence, but there was a more noticeable change to the overall system deployed by Brendan Rodgers at the start of the game, with the Celts lining up with three at the back and four across midfield.

    That switch gave Kieran Tierney licence to roam down the left as an attacking midfielder, but Derek McInnes responded by tasking Jonny Hayes with the responsibility of man-marking the Celtic teenager. The 19-year-old won the early battle, however, flashing a shot over from outside the box inside five minutes after losing his man as he and Patrick Roberts led the charge for the Celts early on.

    It took the Dons the better part of 20 minutes to create anything in retaliation but Graeme Shinnie’s shot from 20 yards was still enough to get Craig Gordon scrambling as the ball rippled the outside of the net. The opportunity transpired to be the only one of its kind for the visitors as the champions rarely let possession slip in a dominant but ultimately fruitless first-half.

    The Pittodrie side were marshalled well at the back, defending their 18-yard line in numbers but Celtic’s varied combination play and flashes of skill from Roberts and Scott Sinclair gave hope that a breakthrough could be made before the interval.

    It looked like the Celts were on the verge of doing just that when Callum McGregor’s clinical through pass gave Roberts space to run into five minutes before half-time but Ryan Jack slid in at the precise moment to intercept the winger’s pass to Sinclair and thwart what would surely have been the opener.

    After a goal-less first-half Celtic’s play was given an injection of pace as the Hoops passed the ball even quicker, particularly around the Dons box. The visitors remained tight at the back but a poor tackle from Hayes on Tierney after the 19-year-old evaded his attentions allowed the Bhoys to storm into the lead.

    The foul gave Scott Sinclair the perfect angle to cross into the box from the left and his precise delivery was met perfectly by Dedryck Boyata, who arched his body in mid-air after making a run to the front post to put his back to goal and crash a thunderous header into the net to break the deadlock.

    Sinclair then almost turned from provider to scorer when he controlled Bitton’s looped pass over the backline, spun his marker and curled a shot towards the top corner, but the crossbar denied the Englishman what would have been a stunning goal.

    The winger’s relentless running at the Aberdeen defence soon saw him on the receiving end of a late lunging challenge from Shinnie before Ash Taylor waded in with an incredibly reckless two-footed sliding tackle on the former Manchester City star as he spun away in midfield to launch another attack.

    The Dons were reeling while Celtic were rampant and space was beginning to open in the visiting defence. Gary Mackay-Steven and Liam Henderson’s introduction in the final stages sought to exploit that with yet another domestic win in sight.

    The pair looked lively, with Henderson in particular exhibiting flashes of composure under pressure, but neither could create another clear-cut chance for the Bhoys to add to their lead.

    It mattered little in the end, however, as the Hoops dealt with what limited attack the Dons offered as the game entered its final minutes, allowing Boyata’s header to stand as the only goal of the game, a strike which sent Celtic 25 points clear at the top of the SPFL Premiership after 23 games.

    The champions now stand on 67 points ahead of Sunday’s trip to McDiarmid Park where they will take on St Johnstone.

    CELTIC (3-4-3) Gordon; Lustig, Simunovic, Boyata; Forrest (Mackay-Steven 71), Bitton, Brown, Tierney; McGregor (Henderson 79), Roberts (Sviatchenko 86), Sinclair.
    Not used: De Vries, Izaguirre, Gamboa, Aitchison

    ABERDEEN (5-3-2) Lewis; Hayes, Logan (Pawlett 90), Taylor, Reynolds (Stockley 86), Considine; Jack, McLean, Shinnie; Rooney (Storey 76), McGinn.
    Not used: Alexander, O’Connor, Wright, Ross

    Website man of the match: Scott Sinclair

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