Aberdeen 2-1 Celtic: Visitors' league lead cut to three points
By Charlie McFaulds
Last Updated: 04/02/16 6:14am
Aberdeen moved to within three points of Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership with a 2-1 victory at Pittodrie.
Jonny Hayes and Simon Church scored in the space of six minutes to change the course of the game after Celtic had dominated the opening 30 minutes and the Dons held on to win despite a late consolation goal from Leigh Griffiths.
The visitors had an early effort on target when Nir Bitton went for goal with a free-kick from around 40 yards which dipped in front of 'keeper Scott Brown, who gathered the ball at the second attempt.
Celtic skipper Scott Brown then took a square pass from Stuart Armstrong and strode forward to fire a shot from 25 yards which dipped over the target following a patient build up.
But Aberdeen made the breakthrough in the 31st minute with their first attempt on goal when Hayes latched on to a dropping ball from a throw-in and crashed a swerving drive from 25 yards past Craig Gordon at full stretch.
Bitton again tested Brown with a vicious drive from just outside the penalty area which the goalkeeper parried, but there were no takers for the rebound.
Instead the Dons doubled their lead two minutes later when Kenny McLean arrived to flick on a Hayes corner at the near post and Church turned the ball over the line for a debut goal.
McLean then unleashed another powerful drive from distance, and this time Gordon got across to punch the ball away.
Hayes caused further problems with another corner in the opening stages of the second half which dropped behind at the far post, and Church stabbed his effort wide from close range shortly after that when the Celtic defence struggled to deal with another aerial ball.
New Celtic signing Colin Kazim-Richards had come on at the start of the second half and he was inches away from turning in a Griffiths cross, before the latter headed wide from six yards after Brown lofted the ball toward the near post.
Gordon was forced into another diving save when Celtic lost possession on the halfway line and Niall McGinn hit a swerving shot from 30 yards.
Aberdeen were controlling the game, but Gary Mackay-Steven sent in a swerving corner which caused problems for the home defence, although no Celtic players were in position to take advantage.
The Dons felt they should have been awarded a penalty nine minutes from the end when Adam Rooney tried to get the ball under control when Hayes flicked on a header, but the striker appeared to get his own legs tangled as he jostled between two defenders.
Griffiths scored in stoppage-time when he skipped past two defenders and crashed a low drive past Brown from 20 yards.
In the end Aberdeen were deserved winners, but the biggest concern for Celtic was their lack of urgency after the break rather than losing at the home of their nearest challengers.