Digital Football Journalist
Aberdeen 1-2 Celtic: Kristoffer Ajer keeps up Bhoys' perfect 2020 with late winner
Ash Taylor earlier cancels out Callum McGregor's 10th-minute opener as Bhoys go 13 points clear
Last Updated: 17/02/20 12:02am
Kristoffer Ajer's late winner earned Celtic a nervy 2-1 win at Aberdeen to keep up their perfect 2020 in the Scottish Premiership.
Celtic were second best for most of the game after Ash Taylor's 27th-minute finish cancelled out Callum McGregor's early opener, but they dug deep to move 13 points clear of second-placed Rangers.
McGregor took advantage of a fast start to slot into an empty net after Joe Lewis had kept out James Forrest's effort with a superb save, but the lead lasted barely a quarter of an hour, with Connor McLennan's cross to Taylor, at the back post, turned home confidently by the centre-back.
After the goal, Aberdeen dominated the rest of the half and took advantage of a lax Celtic midfield performance to continue their upward momentum in the second half, without often testing Fraser Forster.
And moments after substitute Jonny Hayes had wasted a good chance for the visitors in their first shot for more than half an hour, Forrest's smart run and pass found Ajer in space on the right of the area. He fired over Lewis for what would prove a vital winner, to give Celtic their eighth straight win at Pittodrie and deny Aberdeen a deserved point.
Celtic grind their way to victory
Full of confidence after a run of six league wins in a row dating back to their 2-1 defeat to Rangers on December 29, Celtic flew out of the blocks with remnants of Storm Dennis having only a minor effect on proceedings.
A far greater effect came from Leigh Griffiths, who reacted quickest when Scott McKenna and Taylor allowed a ball to bounce in their own half, and after squaring for Forrest who was denied by a quick hand from Lewis, McGregor was on hand to slot the rebound into the empty net.
Aberdeen, who scored their first league goals of 2020 in their 3-1 win at Hamilton in midweek, showed some signs of finding the net again with some decent deliveries, and when McLennan's cross fell nicely for Taylor at the far post, he took it down before striking it confidently inside Forster's near post.
The Dons went on to dominate the first half as Celtic appeared surprisingly timid following that set-back, and would have been loathe to hear the half-time whistle when it came.
But they need not have worried, as their second-half performance picked up where the first had left off, with former Celtic playmaker Niall McGinn at the heart of their impressive display.
Their only failing came in the final third, where Forster rarely came close to being tested, while at the other end Lewis was a relative passenger and did not face a single shot for much of the second half.
That finally changed when substitute Hayes exchanged passes with Odsonne Edouard before shooting straight at him from a tight angle, before Celtic's next attack down that same left flank led to what would prove the winner.
Edouard held up the ball waiting for support before finding Forrest with an exquisite back-heel on the half-way line, and the Scottish winger flew forward, turned inside and found Ajer in space on the right of the box. The defender took a touch before blasting the ball high into Lewis' net.
Celtic should have added to their lead late on when Forrest again turned provider for Edouard, who miskicked from four yards before seeing a second shot kept out by Lewis, who had already been sent sprawling from the initial effort.
That would have been especially harsh on the hosts, who deserved more from the game but stay third, level on points with fourth-placed Motherwell, who have played a game more.
Aberdeen visit Kilmarnock in their Scottish FA Cup fifth-round replay on Wednesday at 7.45pm. Celtic are back in European action after a long break, visiting FC Copenhagen in the first leg of their last-32 game on Thursday at 5.55pm.