Any hope of delaying Celtic’s title celebrations were dashed at a cold Pittodrie on Saturday afternoon.
The injury ravaged Dons side had their work cut out to have any chance of stopping Celtic in their tracks, but it was not to be.
Tony Docherty took the reigns for this one after Derek McInnes was seeing out a touchline ban after reacting to sectarian abuse from Celtic supporters during the Scottish Cup Semi-Final at the start of April.
Aberdeen made three changes to the side that lost to The Rangers.
Andrew Considine was out due to suspension, Connor McLennan and Stephen Gleeson were also ruled out due to injury.
In their place, came in Shay Logan – returning from his ankle injury following the Scottish Cup match against Queen of the South in February and Mikey Devlin and Greg Stewart.
In the most part the Dons held their own in the first half, the opening chance was created by Kieran Tierney who found Tom Rogic, his weak header was saved by Joe Lewis.
James Wilson should have put the Dons ahead in the 17th minute, when a Stevie May cross from inside the penalty area picked him out, he hit his half volley into the ground and it bounced over Scott bain and clipped the bar.
Joe Lewis came to the rescue again after Mikey Devlin allowed a 40 yard punt to go over his head, that allowed Odsonne Edouard a free go a goal, but Lewis came off his line and saved his shot from close range.
Another should’ve situation for the Dons when Scott McKenna put an excellent cross behind the defence to pick out Sam Cosgrove, the striker’s shot was blocked by Bain but fell to Wilson who shot just inches wide – again a scoring opportunity for the Man Utd loanee.
It wasn’t long after that when Celtic went ahead in the 39th minute, when Lustig got past Stevie May, and met the ball with a diving header to put the visitors in front.
In what was becoming a familiar story, James Wilson missed yet another opportunity when he caught onto a May cross but fired his shot over the cross-bar.
In the 52nd minute, Jozo Simunovic was on target from a McGregor corner, the centre-back rose above Scott McKenna and headed home Celtic’s second of the day.
Mikey Devlin had a chance in the 83rd minute when he met a corner at the front of post, his header though was saved by Bain.
The final nail in the coffin came from Edouard who fired home in the 88th minute.
Derek McInnes told the club website: “I’m pretty sure the majority of the reports today will say that if you don’t take those chances against Celtic when they come then it normally comes back to bite you. I’m disappointed we haven’t struck first. The first five or ten minutes I thought Celtic had a wee bit of a foothold without causing us too many problems and thereafter we were very good in terms of counter attacking with a good shape. We were asking a couple of boys to play out of position slightly, but I thought the pressure on the ball was good and we defended ok.
“The lack of concentration for the first goal disappoints me especially after having those chances. There should be more pressure on the ball initially in the wider area as McGregor puts the ball in and as a consequence my back four have to be deeper when there’s zonal pressure. That ball where it bounces before Lustig puts his head on it should be defended by an Aberdeen player because we’re too high when there’s no pressure on the ball. Stevie being out of position potentially is a factor in dropping Lustig.
“We spoke at half time about the positives and making sure we defend better. I was disappointed we gave away a corner, although Shay’s lacking a bit of sharpness and deserves a lot of credit, but we gave away a corner for the second. It doesn’t matter what team you’re against if you’re not getting that first touch in your own box from set plays a lot of the time you can find yourself in a lot of trouble. We should defend and not let Simonovic get the free header and we’ve been punished for it.
“At 2-0 we’ve got a lot to do, but we still had a lot of good moments. We’ve got to be more clinical with our work and show more quality in the final third because we got into good areas. It was a strange game and I think 3-0 in terms of the context of the game maybe seemed to be a bit harsh on us, but when I go through the goals from our point of view the disappointing thing for me is I don’t think Celtic have had to show their quality to get the goals. For me a lot of it was self-inflicted.
“They had their lead and saw the game through.”
Sam Cosgrove commented: “Football’s a game of fine margins and they were more clinical in our box. We’ve had some great chances in the first half to put it away and I think 3-0 is harsh on the balance of play. We’ve got to be better in their box and our box though.
“It was a great save from Bain from myself, but they’re the chances we’ve got to put away. When the team’s up against the wall we can take massive pressure off everyone else if we put those chances away. I think all the forward boys have got to take a lot of responsibility. I’ve got to do better potentially with that shot then Willo’s (James Wilson) got to do better also. We’ll learn but as forward players we’ve got to take a big chunk of that responsibility.
“You cant get away from hard work. We’ll get back to the training pitch and have done it time and time again this season. We’ve picked up some very big results against big teams and have come close to beating them here too. We can do it, but it’s those fine margins that sometimes you can’t overcome on the day.
“The core nucleus of the squad of 15/16 senior players are fantastic and we were missing some big players, but since the boys have been missing the boys that have come in and taken the responsibility have been absolutely fantastic. The overall performance showed that today. We were comfortable, soaked up a lot of their pressure at times and caused them problems. We’ve got a lot to take from that.”
“We’ll most likely recruit well and a club like Aberdeen we’re always striving to get to as close to the top of the table as we can. I don’t think there’s anything to fear and we’ve shown we can get some good results against them this season. We’ll be looking to do the same again next season.
“It’s been a massive learning curve for me. It’s what I’d class as my first full professional season and having the games at the start against Burnley were absolutely fantastic. I then found myself out the team for a spell, but coming back in and scoring the goals I have I’ve got to put pressure on myself again to do exactly the same.
“It’s vital that we get to Europe again. There’s a big pressure on Aberdeen and have done it in numerous years. We’ve always got into Europe through second place and unfortunately we’ve not got there through second, but I think it’s going to go down to the wire. It’s our focus to get as many points as we can and get that last spot.”