Aberdeen suffered their first loss of the new Scottish Premiership season on Saturday with a 2-0 reversal at home to Celtic. Kris Commons put the Hoops ahead from the penalty spot after Jamie Langfield had hauled down Georgios Samaras – causing the long-serving goalkeeper to be shown red by referee Callum Murray – before James Forrest wrapped up the points with a perhaps fortunate deflected effort late on.
Dons manager Derek McInnes saw plenty of positives to take from the game however, saying in his post-match conference that his side had “plenty
And McInnes has every right to be upbeat. Although his side never really tested Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster as much as they would have liked – barring a close-range header from Niall McGinn early in the second-half – they managed to restrict Celtic to that slender one-goal advantage until very late in the game. With the new centre-half pairing of captain Russell Anderson and Michael Hector, on loan from Reading, they proved themselves a difficult outfit to break through.
Although many Aberdeen fans will have been predicting their favourites to finish in the top three this season, a defeat like this shouldn’t change their perceptions. This was the Scottish champions they were up against, a side looking much more determined to improve their league form. Despite predictably running away with the league title, inconsistency regularly crept into Celtic’s play – particularly away from home – and it looks like it will be much more difficult for “the best of the rest” to sneak points off Scotland’s last European participant this season.
But there seems to be something much steelier about this Aberdeen side this season. Last year was again a disappointment for the self-proclaimed Red Army, finishing in the bottom half of the table. But Craig Brown’s retirement opened the door for McInnes’ return to management in Scotland after an unsuccessful spell at Bristol City. And results so far have shown that this new-look side have a bit more resolve and desire about them. An opening day win at home to Kilmarnock was followed up by a sensational 3-1 victory at Motherwell, a place which has not been a profitable hunting ground for Aberdeen in recent seasons and a result made even more remarkable by the fact they found themselves behind after only 40 seconds.
New signings have looked promising as well. In addition to holding on to talismanic winger-cum-striker McGinn, the experience of Barry Robson has been added to the midfield, with Willo Flood and Gregg Wylde joining him on either flank. Calvin Zola has been added from Burton Albion to pack an extra punch up front by adding some height to the Dons’ forward line, with veteran goalkeeper Nicky Weaver joining on a short term deal to provide extra competition for Langfield. It’s these familiar faces coming to Pittodrie that will excite the fans, and the near sell-out crowd of 20,200 for Celtic’s visit last Saturday proves as much.
If this side can maintain a steady attitude throughout the campaign, despite any reversals that may come their way, Aberdeen could find themselves hitting those heady heights of Europe once more this time next year.
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