Skipper Charlie Mulgrew scored a second-half winner as Celtic laboured to a 2-1 win over ten-man Aberdeen on Sunday to remain ten points behind Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premier League. South Korean international Ki Sung-Yeung had fired Celtic into a first-half lead but a superb solo goal from Ryan Jack levelled the scores on the hour mark.
For the second week running it was captain Mulgrew who came to the rescue for the Hoops as he lashed home the winner to add to his equaliser at Kilmarnock last week. The Dons remained dangerous going forward but their hopes of a comeback were extinguished in the 80th minute when Jack saw red for his second bookable offence. Rangers had stretched their lead over Motherwell in second place to nine points earlier on today with a 2-0 win over Hearts at Tynecastle courtesy of goals from Steven Naismith and Nikica Jelavic.
Celtic coach Neil Lennon thought his side had performed well. "I thought we had good control of the game and scored a good first goal," he said. "We didn't start the second half as well as we would have liked and conceded a poor goal from our point of view, but we showed a lot of good stuff after that."
Lennon's opposite number, Craig Brown, felt his side deserved to get something from the game. "When we equalised, I thought we had a very good opportunity to win the game," the Aberdeen coach said. "You have to credit Celtic as they upped their game a bit and their substitutions were good for them, so again we are going up the road disappointed."
Ki strikes first
Celtic started the brighter at Parkhead and Beram Kayal came close with a fierce curling effort before Ki opened the scoring in the 17th minute. Israeli international Kayal fed Hooper with a pass to the edge of the box and he in turn picked out the run of Ki, who slotted a shot low under David Gonzalez from tenyards out.
Aberdeen pushed forward at the start of the second half as they searched for an equaliser but it was Celtic who missed a golden chance to double their advantage when Ki sliced his shot wide. Richard Foster's attempted clearance then only made it as far as Hooper at the edge of the box but the striker's shot was held by Gonzalez.
Jack's fine individual effort helped the Dons restore parity on the hour mark as the right-back weaved his way through the Celtic defence before dispatching a shot low into the bottom left-hand corner past Fraser Forster. Celtic looked to hit back immediately, with Stokes sending a free-kick curling over the bar, before Gonzalez had his palms stung by a thunderous strike from Adam Matthews.
The Hoops regained the lead in the 72nd minute when Youl Mawene failed to clear the danger from Ki's free-kick and Mulgrew was on hand to lash the ball high past Gonzalez at his near post. The Dons were reduced to ten men with ten minutes remaining as Jack, who had been booked for his celebrations after the goal, saw yellow again for a late lunge on Hooper.