Glasgow (AFP) – Celtic took another step closer to the Scottish Premiership title as they defeated Aberdeen 1-0 to extend their lead at the top of the table to 25 points on Wednesday.
Belgian defender Dedryck Boyata’s second half header was enough to seal an 18th consecutive league victory and ensure their unblemished start domestically stretched to 28 games.
“There weren’t too many openings for us in the first half but I thought in the second we were excellent and eventually created the opportunity to score,” said Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers.
“It wasn’t perfect, but it was a great win.”
Despite their defeat, the Dons could move up to second place if they win the game in hand they have over Rangers, who were hammered 4-1 by Hearts at Tynecastle. Hearts are now within eight points of Rangers.
“We are all disappointed and angry that we’ve not taken something from the game,” Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes said.
“I thought we did so much right in the game so to lose in the manner that we did is hard to take.”
Aberdeen, who had won their previous five matches, had been given a boost before the match as Celtic once again fielded a side without a recognised striker due to injuries to Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths.
However, it didn’t hold Celtic back in the early stages as Kieran Tierney fired just over after cutting in from the left before Scott Sinclair was inches away from connecting with Patrick Roberts’s inviting cross as the hosts made a breathless start.
Aberdeen, who were unchanged for the sixth successive game, weathered the early storm and soon had a chance of their own when space opened up for Graeme Shinnie but the midfielder’s low drive whistled just past the post.
Celtic were presented with a great chance when Roberts beat the offside trap to race clear but the on-loan Manchester City winger delayed squaring the ball for Sinclair allowing Ryan Jack to make a perfect intervention with a last-ditch tackle.
The home fans grew increasingly frustrated as the Dons’ impressive defensive performance kept the Hoops at bay, but Celtic finally made the breakthrough in the 57th minute.
Sinclair swung a free-kick in from the left to the front post where Boyata rose above his marker to power a header high into the net for his second goal in three games.
Celtic came close to a second shortly afterwards when Sinclair twisted and turned at the edge of the box to make room for a shot which he sent crashing off the bar with ‘keeper Joe Lewis beaten.
Aberdeen remained a threat but Craig Gordon easily saved Andrew Considine’s late header as Celtic held on.
At Tynecastle, Hearts recovered from their 4-0 humbling by Celtic on Sunday to thrash Rangers as Ian Cathro collected just his third win in nine games since becoming head coach.
Hearts, who lost to Rangers in Cathro’s first game in charge, took an early lead through new signing Krystian Nowak before American international Emerson Hyndman levelled for Rangers before the break.
However, Hearts went on a second half scoring spree with three goals in 13 minutes sealing an emphatic victory.
Walker slammed home a 25-yard strike to restore their advantage before Bjorn Johnsen took advantage of some slack defending to cross for Don Cowie to tap in.
With the Rangers defence in disarray, Walker latched on to Johnsen’s header to fire in to an empty net as the Jambos collected their second win of the season over Rangers to heap pressure on manager Mark Warburton.
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