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  • Hayes on target as dominant Celts sweep aside Aberdeen

    Hayes on target as dominant Celts sweep aside Aberdeen

    By: Tony Connelly on 23 Dec, 2017 17:24

  • Scottish Premiership
    Celtic Park, Glasgow
    Saturday December 23, 2017

    CELTIC…3
    (Lustig 40, Hayes 68, Ntcham 74)

    ABERDEEN…0

    JONNY Hayes scored his first competitive goal in the Hoops as the champions swept aside second-placed Aberdeen with a convincing 3-0 win at Paradise.

    Celtic punished Aberdeen from start to finish, dominating them in the second half as the Bhoys surged eight-points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership at Christmas.  

    Mikael Lustig opened the scoring in the first half before Hayes and Olivier Ntcham added two more in the second half.

    Hayes lined-up against his former employers as Brendan Rodgers made three changes to the team that recorded a 2-0 win over Partick Thistle on Wednesday night.

    Olivier Ntcham and Moussa Dembele returned to the starting XI while Callum McGregor, James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard dropped to the bench.

    Kristoffer Ajer retained his spot in the heart of the backline alongside Dedryck Boyata, and the young Norwegian put in another convincing performance following his impressive showing against the Jags in midweek.

    Celtic piled the pressure on their opponents from the off and hemmed them into their own penalty area in the opening minutes as Aberdeen put themselves under pressure by conceding numerous free-kicks with reckless tackles.

    The champions illustrated their attacking intent early on when Lustig threaded a wonderful ball in behind Considine for Hayes down the right. The Irish midfielder swung a great ball into the Aberdeen box which was defended well.

    Aberdeen were exposed on the opposite flank early on when Scott Sinclair slipped the ball into an on-rushing Kieran Tierney inside the visitors’ box. Tierney took it to the byline but Considine cut off the space to kill the threat of the cut back.

    The game began to balance out midway through the half as the tempo increased and Aberdeen began to create some opportunities of their own. Gary Mackay-Steven was gifted a great chance midway through the half when Dedryck Boyata was caught out by bounce of the ball in the final third. The former Celtic winger shaved the outside of the far post with his low, driven shot.

    Scott Sinclair, however, had the best chance of the first half when he raced through on goal but he was denied his 16th goal of the season after Joe Lewis pulled off a fantastic save.

    Hayes was troubling the Dons with his pace and quick footwork, and when he twisted his way to the byline, there were no takers for his excellent pass across he six-yard box.

    The first half was end-to-end, with both sides creating good opportunities in an enthralling top of the table clash but it was Celtic who struck first through Lustig.  Five minutes before the break, the ball was laid back for the Swedish defender and Lewis was left helpless after his shot deflected off Kari Arnason and into the back of the net.

    As the home side upped the tempo following the start of the second half, Dembele nearly benefited from a wonderful Stuart Armstrong run, but the striker’s shot across goal flashed beyond the far post. Ntcham also came close moments later when his drive from outside the box flew narrowly wide.

    The Hoops had moved up a gear following the restart, and Armstrong almost scored his second goal in four days when Sinclair supplied him up, but his half-volley flew over, before Tierney burst through and tested Lewis at his near post.

    The hard-working Dembele then had two chance to score when Lewis smothered his low effort, before the Frenchman curled over after rounding Lewis and receiving a return pass from Sinclair.

    Celtic strengthened their grip on the game when Hayes’ diligent work-rate and attacking intent paid off midway through the second half as he doubled the lead. Sinclair cut the ball back, before the ball rebounded favourably for the Irishman, who tucked the ball away.

    Ntcham put the game to bed six minutes later. Intercepting Kenny McLean’s poor back-pass, the Celtic midfielder stole the ball, rounded Lewis and rolled the ball into the net.

    Celtic were unrelenting in their pursuit of more goals, and Dembele was unable to convert an excellent chance after Tierney picked out the French striker with a perfect cross but the header was straight at Lewis.

    A fourth goal almost came near the end as Odsonne Edouard’s shot was deflected behind, but it had been a fantastic afternoon for the six-in-a-row champions, who moved another step closer to meeting Brendan Rodgers’ target of finishing 2017 with a double-figure points advantage at the league summit.

    CELTIC (4-1-2-3) Gordon; Lustig, Boyata, Ajer, Tierney; Brown, Ntcham, Armstrong; Hayes (McGregor 75), Sinclair (Forrest 69), Dembele (Edouard 80)
    Not Used: De Vries, Simunovic, Bitton, Griffiths

    ABERDEEN (4-1-4-1) Lewis; Ball, O’Connor, Arnason, Consie; Reynolds; Stewart (Ross 84), McLean, Shinnie, Mackay-Steven (Harvie 88), Rooney (Maynard 66)
    Not Used: Rogers, Wright, McKenna, Campbell

    Website Man of the Match: Stuart Armstrong

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