THE joke doing the rounds in the home stands by tea time yesterday was that if Celtic beat Aberdeen many more times they will get to keep them.
It was harsh, yet given this was the Dons’ 25th successive league defeat at Celtic Park, a run spanning 13 years and including the concession of 70 goals, you could see where they were coming from.
Truthfully, though, as manager Derek McInnes argued this really wasn’t the one-sided affair the final score-line would suggest.
A deflection at the first goal, a defensive mix up at the second and a too-short backpass at the third made for tough watching from the visitors’ dugout.
“There wasn’t a lot in this game,” said McInnes.
“Celtic were very good when they beat us 3-0 at Pittodrie but it was much closer today.
“Goals change games and we were guilty of not making the most of our chances in both halves.
“We are not without blame and it’s not just down to luck.
“But I do think they got a huge slice of luck with their goals.
“The first comes off Dominic Ball and totally diverts it in the other direction.
“It’s an untidy, slap-dash goal to separate the teams.
“If we’d gone in at 0-0 at half-time, the Celtic players would have come back to a different reception than they did.
“I thought we were the better team in the first half.
“Celtic started better but again, we gave them a goal. We had three assists for them.
“They got to the byeline and that can happen, but Mark Reynolds’ header comes off Kari Arnason and falls for Jonny Hayes.
“It’s 2-0 and again, it was untidy. It wasn’t down to real quality from the opposition.
“That knocked the stuffing out of us and the injuries meant I didn’t have a lot of options from the bench.
“Then at the third, Kenny makes a mistake and I felt for him as he was terrific.
“Celtic then enjoyed the rest of the game and it was a tough watch.
“I will take the positives from the performance though.”
It was an entertaining match, fine, feisty stuff with both teams pressing on to their opponents to deny the comfort of time and space on the ball.
With Stevie May and Shay Logan out Aberdeen’s line up had a slightly industrial look to it including five players – Dom Ball, Andrew Considine, Mark Reynolds, Kari Arnason and Anthony O’Connor – who could comfortably operate at centre-back spread around the side.
They were attacking enough, though, as they set about a Celtic side who had been outmuscled as well outplayed in defeat to Hearts six days earlier.
Gary Mackay-Steven, the Dons hat-trick hero against the other Edinburgh side last week, got some joy when stripping Dedryck Boyata of the ball before scampering forward to shoot just wide of Craig Gordon’s far post.
His team-mate Greg Stewart went even closer to scoring when spinning away from Olivier Ntcham and unleashing a shot which the Celtic keeper was happy to punch away.
It was the home side who were to go in at half time ahead aided by a slice of good fortune.
Mikael Lustig’s shot from distance looked decent enough but it was the deflection it took off the back of Dom Ball which completely did for Joe Lewis.
Celtic’s second was delivered against a backdrop of twinkling lights, lingering remnants of the home fans now customary 67th minute tribute to the Lisbon Lions.
Scott Sinclair whipped in a cross from the left and when Reynolds headed the ball off teammate Arnason and the rebound fell sweetly for their former Pittodrie pal Jonny Hayes who tucked it away for his first goal in the Hoops.
If that one was a tough watch for Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes, there was worse to follow.
Kenny McLean did really well to intercept Hayes and take the ball down, but when he played it back to keeper Lewis his pass was too short.
Olivier Ntcham must have smelled blood for he zipped in and stole the ball away, dragging it wide before rolling it into the net with a right-footed shot.