Date: 18th February 2007 at 10:16am
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Jimmy Calderwood will be asking himself what he has to do to win against this strong, resilient Celtic side as everything he tries still has the same outcome. Previously when they met this season the Dons` boss employed the counter-attack system but to no avail as they still lost twice. This time he instructed his team to attack Celtic from the start and despite impressing with this approach for the first eight minutes, Lovell especially looked lively, it was the visitors who took the lead.

Celtic tutored Aberdeen in the art of counter-attacking football as they turned the tables on their previous meetings and employed their host`s customary tactics to stunning effect. A promising Dons attack was turned into a Celtic goal lightning quick with the influential Nakamura playing a perfect ball to Craig Beattie, who made his run from the halfway line unmarked, before slotting the ball with his right foot under the ailing Jamie Langfield. Langfield may look back and feel he could have done better with the effort as the ball slipped past him and rolled into the bottom right of the goal.

Aberdeen 1-0 down to the champions and champions elect in eight minutes. This is however a battling Dons team and no way did any of the 16,711 fans in Pittodrie expect the home side to capitulate the way they may have done a few years back when under Danish rule. And so it proved, Aberdeen battered forward looking for an immediate reply, the Dons fans spurred their team on and the contest was very much in the balance, a good game flowing with passionate play and dogged determination which was all about to be ruined by the man in the middle, Craig Thomson.

This match will be remembered for the fact that Shunsuke Nakamura took the free kick ten minutes after Beattie`s goal and put it into the top corner with precision that would embarrass an SAS sniper. It was a stunning strike from 18 yards but the talking point for all associated with Aberdeen will be of the referee awarding Celtic such a dangerous opportunity for the softest of soft fouls after Thomson generously penalised Russell Anderson when Hesselink backed into him; Anderson was later to claim that he never touched him at all. Celtic are of course aware of the unique talents their Japanese star possesses and will no doubt be under instruction to try and earn free-kicks around the box, less obvious than diving for a penalty, for Nakamura to duck-shoot home.

Quite poor that Thomson was conned so easily as he gifted Celtic with an excellent opportunity to win the match, still in it`s infancy, with an award which many pundits claim is as good as a penalty if Nakamura is stands behind the ball from that range, and so despite the huge endeavour and belief Aberdeen still had for the game, it certainly killed any realistic notion that they`d go on and take three points.

The Dons still, as the fans are now accustomed to, came battling back desperate to get a goal which would give them a fighting chance in the second half. Firstly a strong shout for a Pressley handball in the box was denied (Aberdeen must have used up their penalty quota for the 16 months last week) then Lovell headed wide from a Ricky Foster cross to waste a really good opportunity, Barry Nicholson then drove a powerful shot just over and just before half time, a tremendous Chris Clark effort was amazingly saved by the again Celtic saviour Artur Boruc and the half ended with the visitors two goals in front.

The home side again came out spurred on to claw themselves back into but Langfield kept the scoreline from turning undeservedly embarrassing when he superbly tipped away Jarosik`s chipped effort. Celtic then made changes to kill the match and just try and see the game out with the removal of forward players for nullifying midfielders.

The ploy worked and the game strangled itself to death but not before a massed Aberdeen bombardment almost claimed back a priceless point. They notched a well earned goal right at the end of ninety minutes when Langfield`s kick out was nodded on by Lee Miller and Darren Mackie was only just able to slot the ball under the advancing Boruc to give the match an unexpectedly tense and thrilling final three minutes. The Dons fired everything they had at Celtic which resulted in a couple of skirmishes in the box but nothing clear cut and the visitors only now need to win their next three games to be crowned champions again. TV replays may prove however that Naylor handled the ball in the box during those final frantic minutes, possibly cementing the fact that the referee had a poor game when it came to the big calls.

Aberdeen obviously battle hard, they are very tough to beat and wont accept that the Champions league qualification is now not feasible as journalists, primarily BBC`s gob on a stick Darryl Broadfoot, have placed their chances as “remote”. This despite Rangers not yet having won their equivalent weekend match, or played Celtic as many times as Aberdeen have or taken into account that the Dons still have a game in hand. All that and the fact Aberdeen still have to play Rangers twice means that CL qualification is still very much possible and not “remote” as Broadfoot allows to tumble from his lips, with the tube in his anus that`s connected to his oesophagous still linked.

Celtic now go into their huge match on Tuesday night with a tough win behind them and hopefully all of Scotland wishes them well; but there is every chance that they will have the vital refereeing decisions go against them as they experience the advantages that the big teams in matches seem to always have and maybe they`ll have something to moan about when the shoe`s on the other foot.

As for Aberdeen, their manager Jimmy Calderwood admitted that better teams than his had lost to a Nakamura free kick, Manchester United being one, and he was pleased that Aberdeen were able to match a team who are in the last sixteen in Europe and coasting to another SPL title in every department.

He said after tha match “I thought we started quite well but on their first attack they scored. We tried to play offside but it did not work. We don’t need to try and play defence like that as we have so much pace that we can recover quickly.

“Nakamura’s goal was very good and it set us back a bit but to be fair we fought back and the boys gave everything they could. I know we can play better but we just did not get the breaks. Celtic showed us a lot of respect by fielding a strong team but individual mistakes let us down. We were chasing the game in the second half but it was too little too late.

“I don’t think we were out played and on another day we could have taken something from the game.”

He has clearly not conceded the fight and looks to take the challenge to the last kick of the ball. He believes in his team, he knows they have a great backbone and are united for each other and whilst the odds are certainly in Rangers favour for the Euro spot, it`s all still very much within Aberdeen`s` hands where they finish this season.