Fortunately for Aberdeen, they encountered a Celtic team in generous mood. Had the reigning Scottish Premiership champions made the most of opportunities in this, their first league outing of the new campaign, Jim Goodwin’s team would have been on the wrong end of a trouncing. The outcome here was hardly a shock; Celtic have not lost in 18 matches against Aberdeen.
It took a flash of genius to afford the scoreline a fair complexion. Jota, the winger signed permanently from Benfica in the close season, strode clear of Dante Polvara before unleashing a wonderful drive high past Kelle Roos from 22 yards. Giorgos Giakoumakis should have added gloss to Celtic’s victory in the closing stages but was profligate. It was, in fact, that sort of afternoon for Celtic. This two-goal victory was sufficient to place them at the summit of the table after a single round of matches but Ange Postecoglou cut a slightly frustrated post-match figure.
“Especially in the last 15 minutes of the first half, there was some slack passing and we allowed the game to be a little but more open than it should have been,” Celtic’s manager said. “We got better again in the second half.
“We just needed to be a lot more clinical with the chances we had. We also would have had even more chances with better decisions.”
Even Jota, the man of the moment, was not spared. “He was one of worst culprits in that first-half spell,” Postecoglou added. “He was wasteful with the ball, gave away possession when he shouldn’t have. But he addressed that in the second half. There were lessons in there for everyone.”
Stephen Welsh headed the hosts in front inside three minutes. Aberdeen’s defending was timid from a Matt O’Riley corner, which the young centre-back could glance home. Aberdeen spent the first quarter of the game chasing shadows and unable to retain any meaningful possession. Kyogo flicked a shot wide and Roos saved well from the outstanding O’Riley as Celtic chased a quickfire second.
Not only did that not arrive but Aberdeen, remarkably, should have levelled. Jonny Hayes had time and space to pick his spot beyond Joe Hart after Vicente Besuijen played the ball into his path. The former Celtic man drove his shot wide of Hart’s right-hand post from 16 yards.
It looked thereafter as if one goal may have to suffice for Celtic. Roos denied Josip Juranovic and O’Riley before the Aberdeen captain Anthony O’Connor survived a penalty claim. Enter Jota, who left Roos helpless.
“That’s what six million quid gets you,” said a rueful Goodwin later.
Aberdeen’s manager added: “We couldn’t have started the game any worse. We gave away a silly corner then didn’t defend it. Giving a team of Celtic’s quality a head start is not what we needed to do.
“It was very difficult afternoon, there’s no getting away from that. I tried to explain to the players after the game that we won’t face this quality week in, week out in Scotland. We will learn from today and see what can do better but no point dwelling on it.”