Scottish Premier League
Celtic 1-0 Aberdeen



Aberdeen's new recruit Niall McGinn, bought from Celtic, dribbles the ball in between Celtic's Beram Kayal and Emilio Izaguirre as the 25-year old looked to impress against his old team-mates on his Dons debut



By Adam Higgins
Chief Scotland Correspondent from Parkhead 

Celtic outlined their intent to hold on to the title as the defending champions of Scotland kick-started the new SPL campaign with a narrow victory over Aberdeen.  

Kris Commons scored the only goal of the game with eleven minutes remaining following a blunder from Dons goalkeeper Jamie Langfield as the Bhoys unconvincingly edged past Craig Brown's Aberdeen with Scottish football recanvassing after a difficult summer of turmoil and uncertainty.

The Hoops were missing last season's player of the year Charlie Mulgrew, formerly of Aberdeen, through suspension after the defender - who netted the winner in Wednesday's Champions League third qualifying round first leg against HJK Helsinki - was sent off in a pre-season friendly defeat to Ajax for deliberate handball.

The SFA were informed that no appeal could be made against the dismissal, following the intervention of the Dutch Football Association, meaning he will sit out a further two domestic games.

Captain Scott Brown and winger James Forrest missed out through injury while Anthony Stokes started, despite struggling with an ankle problem, up front with Gary Hooper. There were three changes in all from midweek as Thomas Rogne and Beram Kayal also started while Daryl Murphy, back from a loan spell at Ipswich, was among the substitutes. Ki Sung-Yeung remained absent from club duty as he continues to participate in the London 2012 Olympic Games football competition with his country South Korea.

Three new signings made their Aberdeen debuts in Gary Naysmith at left-back following his release from Huddersfield Town, Johnny Hayes from Inverness Caley Thistle and Niall McGinn from opponents Celtic. Jamie Langfield began in goal having appeared just once last season and former Fulham midfielder Robert Milsom returned from a lengthy lay-off on the bench while youngster Fraser Fyvie has departed to join Premier League side Wigan Athletic.

Before the game, Celtic unveiled a flag at the start of their 125th season in the East End of Glasgow as 90-year-old Shaun Fallon, who captained the club and was assistant manager under Jock Stein, unfurled another flag to mark the Glasgow club as Clydesdale Bank Premier League champions for a 43rd time. Aberdeen gave the champions a guard of honour as the players emerged from the tunnel.

Following the newco Rangers dropping out of the league and relaunched in Division Three, Celtic have been installed as overwhelming favourites to retain their Scottish Premier League title with their main challengers for so long now fighting it out in the fourth tier of Scottish football.  



The last time Celtic lost their first league match in a season was 1997/98 when Hibernian beat them 2-1 at Easter Road on Henrik Larsson's debut.


The match began slowly as expected with the visitors playing in their first competitive match as the game ticked by with a lacklustre tempo. The sun was shining in Glasgow and the pitch was in immaculate condition however the eagerly-awaited match didn't reach the heights many were expecting.

The Hoops, who finished twenty points ahead of their Old Firm rivals last campaign to romp to their first title in four years, were backed by raucous support from the home faithful at Celtic Park as chants broke out from all four corners of the ground of "Celtic champions".

There was an early warning for Aberdeen's debutant left-back Gary Naysmith as the former Everton and Sheffield United man, let go by Championship newcomers Huddersfield in May, sliced through Beram Kayal after the Israeli had skilfully nutmegged Stephen Hughes and advanced away from Isaac Osbourne. It was evident that defensive organisation was the number one priority from the outset for the Dons, who got back in numbers throughout.

Commons looked a bright spark early on although his delivery from wide areas and dead-ball situations was lacking in definitive accuracy. The hosts looked for him on the right hand side on numerous occasions with the ex-Derby County man seeing a low shot deflect behind for a corner, which he duly wasted.

Aberdeen, ninth in the SPL in the last three seasons and the lowest scorers in the division during 2011-12, were slowly getting into the game with Johnny Hayes, a free buy from fellow SPL outfit Inverness over the summer, seeking to cause Emilio Izaguirre - injured for six months in a match against Aberdeen last August - one or two scares down the right flank.

On the other flank, McGinn had a point to prove against the team he left in June in order to link up with the Dons and looked to force errors from the home team's back four.

Joe Ledley brought the first save of the game out of Langfield in the visitors goal low down on nine minutes after the Celtic midfielder used his strength to good effect as he easily shrugged off Ryan Jack.

The 32-year old shotstopper, who agreed a new two-year contract in May, did well to hold on with Gary Hooper as the SPL's top goalscorer last season - who scored 24 goals for the Parkhead club last term including five in their final match against Hearts - in close attendance.

Celtic, who haven't conceded a goal at home in the SPL since January, were rarely troubled at the back but were struggling to penetrate a compact and tight Dons structure, despite being vastly superior in terms of possession, in a game that was desperately starved of quality and goalmouth action with goalscoring chances at a premium.

A powerful right-foot drive from Commons again drew a decent stop from custodian Langfield as Kayal played it into his path twenty yards out, while at the other end, a new-look Aberdeen couldn't get enough bodies in support of their main front man as lone striker Scott Vernon, the club's top goalscorer in each of the last two SPL seasons, cut a forlorn figure.

Samaras flashed an effort wide after getting the better of the visitor's young Scotland U21 international full-back Ryan Jack, who was sent-off on the opening day of last season against St Johnstone and scored on Aberdeen's previous visit to Celtic Park last October.

He was soon swapped to central midfield by the SPL's oldest manager Craig Brown midway through the first half as midfielder Osbourne filled the quarter-back berth.

Even though the Dons defence seemed particularly solid, it always looked embattled amidst the exultant backing of their travelling band en masse with extra tickets available to those making the journey from Aberdeenshire.

A stubborn Aberdeen contained well without causing problems of their own against the lukewarm champions. Gary Hooper was off target after creating half a yard of space afforded by Rae.



The defeat means that Aberdeen have not won any of their last 14 matches in all competitions against Celtic.


Northern Ireland international McGinn, farmed out to League One club Brentford last season, had the only worthy effort at goal of note from the visitors in the entire game on the stroke of half-time with a twenty-five yard free-kick which sailed harmlessly over Fraser Forster's crossbar - awarded after Thomas Rogne climbed illegally on the back of Hayes.

The Dons began lively after the interval and enjoyed their best spell of the game. Scott Vernon drilled a half-volley over after Hoops keeper Forster - the club's only official purchase in the transfer window so far having made his move from Newcastle permanent after two successful loan spells - flapped a Hayes corner straight to the ex-Colchester forward Vernon in space inside the box but he cracked his effort too high.

The home side changed their system when introducing centre-back Kelvin Wilson, restricted to just fifteen appearances in his first season at the club since signing from Nottingham Forest due to injury, for stand-in captain Samaras as he trudged off after 55 minutes having being accidentally elbowed in the face in the first period.

This allowed Kenyan international Victor Wanyama, linked with moves to Manchester United and Manchester City in England, to move into midfield where he prospered last season in a phenomenal first campaign at Celtic.

The 24-year old immediately became involved when he showed a fantastic burst of pace to charge past Rae and the ball set up nicely for him to strike after Commons was expertly challenged in the penalty arc by Andrew Considine, however, his shot was wayward and flew into the stands.

Langfield thwarted Commons with a sprawling save after the midfielder tried his luck with another effort from distance as the SPL winners of last season asked more question of the visitors in the final twenty minutes of the game.

The crowd were continually growing restless as a disappointing Anthony Stokes, who netted twice in three appearances against Aberdeen in 2011-12 and scored on the opening day last season in a 2-0 win over his old club Hibernian, blasted into orbit as frustrations looked to get the better of Neil Lennon's men.

The urgency raised as the alarm bells rang louder although their achilles heel was the inability to keep hold of the ball for long periods as first Ledley then Rogne cheaply lost the ball too frequently.

Although the second half pressure from the Celts paid off as the goal, which had been a long time coming, came at last on 79 minutes.

A corner was quickly taken by Matthews whose initial flagkick was headed out by Russell Anderson but only to Commons who sent a low cross-cum-shot back into the danger area which deceived Langfield, who missed a huge chunk of last season to recover from a brain seizure, allowed the ball to squeeze in at the front post.

It dribbled underneath the veteran's body for a goalkeeping howler which abrasively undid the afternoon's hard graft from the Dons and was ultimate heartbreak for a watching Craig Brown and assistant boss Archie Knox from the dugout.

28-year old Commons, who scored on his Celtic debut against Aberdeen in January 2011, had looked the most likely to open the scoring as the Celts had to dig hard to find the route to goal. In doing so, he equalled his tally for the whole of last season in the SPL - a solitary goal.

Aberdeen had precious little time to respond, throwing on striker Josh Magennis in the dying stages for McGinn, although the positive substitution was to no avail as the Hoops were able to see out the game with comfort and protect their lead - as well as breathe a huge sigh of relief as the final whistle got them over the finishing line and put three points on the board on matchday one of another dramatic season which lies ahead.

The Dons, despite all their efforts, failed to conjure a shot on target in the game and saw skipper Anderson booked in stoppage time by referee Calum Murray for hauling down an escaping Hooper.

Celtic travel to Finland to face minnows HJK Helsinki on Wednesday night at the Sonera Stadium in the second leg of their Champions League qualifier - holding a 2-1 lead from the first leg at Parkhead in midweek with a place in the group stages on offer.

They are not in SPL action next weekend having requested to play in a friendly match, while Aberdeen play host to promoted Ross County next Saturday.


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Adam Higgins
The Football Site - Chief Scotland Correspondent

"It is always hard to reach the peak of your fitness as a player in the first game of the season and energy levels won't reach the high point for a few weeks. Despite players being rusty, both managers look at the result rather than the performance of the game on the opening day of the season. There's always a real buzz of excitement and anticipation around the opening day of the season in terms of fans looking forward to it. The first half was frustrating for Neil Lennon's men and they didn't look at their best. You cannot legislate for a mistake like that from your goalkeeper- it looked an easy save to make, the ball was going straight into his hands, there didn't look to be too much danger, no one was attacking it for Celtic or obscuring Langfield's view or indeed making a run across the front post in order to get there. That is really poor goalkeeping and unfortunately it has cost his team dearly. Aberdeen can count themselves unfortunate not to be taking a point and have proved that this season might not be so straightforward after all for Celtic. The champions looked far from their best but you have to credit them for winning ahead of a big match on Wednesday night in the Champions League. It isn't ideal to begin in such an unconvincing manner but assessing it, Celtic fans will go home content with the three points. They have absentees who are yet to come back who will no doubt strengthen the make-up of the side i.e. Brown and Forrest in midfield, and they will soon click into their groove. They are overwhelming favourites to regain their SPL title and even at a massive club like Celtic, the expectation can get the better of you. It was a poor game which was expected on my part, Aberdeen were content on resting on their laurels but did have a go. They were predominantly in defensive mode in a game which lacked a vibrant tempo but came close to snatching a point which their performance would have certainly merited. It wasn't to be but I have no issues in terms of their effort and this could be their campaign to blossom."





Saturday 4th August 2012

Scottish Premier League

Parkhead (Glasgow)


Celtic 1-0 Aberdeen                                KO 12:45pm                Live on Sky Sports 2/HD2                (HT 0-0)

Commons 79






1 Fraser Forster-  7/10   The Celtic stopper had no shots to save and had one moment where you would question him when coming for a corner and not taking command but other than that shaky moment, he was more like an outfield player/spectator.

2 Adam Matthews-  7/10  The right-back overran it sometimes when he ran down the side with the ball, although not a bad game for him on the whole. Dealt with whatever McGinn threw at him with constimmate ease and carried some threat to Aberdeen in the attacking third.

25 Thomas Rogne-  6/10  Not a lot of defending to do in the game, looked comfortable in dealing with the Aberdeen lone front-man Vernon. Kept giving the ball away softly in the second half.

67 Victor Wanyama-  7/10  Looked better when moved into his accustomed midfield position where he tried to get forward as much as possible as the game wore on. Showed one or two lungbusting runs which were eventually stopped but showed some promise- didn't look entirely match-fit.

3 Emilio Izaguirre-  6.5/10  Still working his way back from that horrific injury last season- and hasn't been the same player since. Could have been better and was rarely seen taking a gamble in getting right to the byline and delivering crosses into the box.

15 Kris Commons-  8/10  Probably looked the most dangerous player throughout the match using both feet in order to bring invention to his team's play, looked to drive at the Aberdeen defence and had one or two efforts blocked.

16 Joe Ledley-  6.5/10  An early shot to test the goalkeeper and one or two decent tackles to regain possession for Celtic, although he will be first to admit that he didn't reach his usual high standards. Lots of errant passes which is extremely unlike him.

33 Beram Kayal-  7/10   His performance level was hardly outstanding but certainly not shabby. A brilliant piece of play in the first half which drew a late tackle from Naysmith and was one of very few Celtic players on the day who was capable of keeping hold of the ball, offered themselves in space and could pass it on to a colleague. Didn't over-complicate things.

9 Georgios Samaras (C)-  7/10  Substituted early in the second half, received an elbow in the face early on from Ryan Jack. Started out on the left hand side again- a role he is still adapting to. Stood in as captain following the absence of Brown and Mulgrew.

10 Anthony Stokes-  6/10  A very poor game for the forward, one effort in the second half which was miles off target and his partnership with Hooper didn't work today. The two have been great together over the last two seasons but it wasn't to be in this match. Taken off.

88 Gary Hooper-  7/10  Was a frustrated figure in attack. Last season's top goalscorer will be disappointed with the service which came his way. Counting the number of chances he had in the game was easy enough- he had none. Was forced to come into his own half at times just to get a touch of the ball.


Substitutes bench:-
24 Zaluska (GK), 4 K Wilson, 23 Lustig, 56 F Twardzik, 20 McCourt, 46 McGeouch, 27 Murphy.


Subs used:

K Wilson (for Samaras-  55 mins)-  4.5/10   Brought on as part of a change in system for Neil Lennon which looked to improve Celtic going forward. Looked fitter and kept the back four in shape and in line.

McCourt (for Beram Kayal-  69 mins)-  3.5/10   The Irish winger took up his familiar role as a substitute but whenever he plays, he always does something of real quality. He never gave the ball away, always passes the ball forward and looks to increase the speed of the game. A good player still in the making.

Murphy (for Stokes-  76 mins)-  2.5/10   Didn't do anything to stake a claim for a starting place in the next match but had a better impact than Stokes was having on the game- his link-up play with team-mates was a little sharper around the penalty area.


Booked:      None


Sent-off:      None






1 Jamie Langfield-  6.5/10    Didn't have a particularly busy afternoon but made an absolute howler for the goal that has decided the match. Completely misjudged where the Commons shot/cross was going after saving well from the Celtic midfielder twice in the game. A poor moment for the keeper.

2 Ryan Jack-  7.5/10   Struggled to keep tabs on Samaras in the first twenty minutes when at right-back which forced Craig Brown to make a tactical alteration. Moved into midfield where he looked more assured and was decent in holding the ball.

4 Russell Anderson (C)-  6.5/10    A decent defensive performance from the 33-year old centre-back who didn't really have too much problems in dealing with a poor Stokes and frustrated Hooper up front. Booked for fouling the latter in stoppage time.

6 Andrew Considine-  7/10   Quietly got on with the game, was good at distributing the ball to his midfielders and read the match well, coping explicitly with the Celtic front two all game long.

17 Gary Naysmith-  7/10   Lucky not to get a yellow card early on for a late foul on Kayal. Defended reasonably well when had to- replaced on 77 minutes, but used his experience which carried him through. A good display on the whole from the veteran.

5 Gavin Rae-  6.5/10   Against a Celtic midfield who couldn't hold onto the ball well in the game, Rae was average to say the least and couldn't capitalise or expose the opponent's astray passing. Didn't look totally fit and lack of match practice certainly told.

18 Stephen Hughes-  7.5/10   Showed glimpses of why Aberdeen were keen to bring him back, confidently strode forward with the ball and did his utmost to provide some support from midfield to Vernon when he could.

16 Isaac Osbourne-  7/10   Knew when to sit back and when to push forward- was switched to right-back during the first half where he did a better job against Samaras and eventually McCourt when he came on. A tough-tackling display from the former Coventry man.

11 Johnny Hayes-  7/10   Tried to get the better of Izaguirre and gave a decent first impression to his new supporters. The winger will improve as his fitness increases although he never had the energy to go on mazy runs like we are used to seeing from him. Not really helpful to Jack in first half when defending.

9 Scott Vernon-  6.5/10   Iscolated upfront on his own as you would expect with the Dons struggling to get bodies up all the time to assist him. Never got a sniff of goal in the first half. A little iscolated in attack, had one half chance and didn't take full advantage of it.

10 Niall McGinn-  7/10   A free-kick over the crossbar in the first period was his team's first effort in the game and couldn't make that impression although he can be pleased with a good run-out against his old employers. Substituted late on.


Substitutes bench:- 
32 Brown (GK), 20 Fraser, 7 Clark, 8 Milsom, 15 Pawlett, 14 Fallon, 21 Magennis.


Subs used: 
Clark (for Naysmith-  72 mins)-  3.5/10   Replaced the tiring Naysmith thus bringing some fresh legs and gave some stability and solidity to the midfield in the final stages of the game.

Fraser (for Hayes-  79 mins)-  3/10   The youngster didn't look out of place and looks to take the place of Fraser Fyvie- he showed that he is not afraid to take on players using his speed and skill- had he been given more time, he could have had an impact of sorts.

Magennis (for McGinn-  89 mins)-  0.5/10   Never had the chance to get a feel of the ball or do anything to remotely turn the game around for Aberdeen.


Booked:       Anderson (90+1)


Sent-off:       None



My Man of the Match:   Kris Commons (Celtic) - Rating 8/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:   Anthony Stokes (Celtic) - Rating 6/10



Referee: Calum Murray (Scotland) - 9.5/10
Attendance: 48,251



Match Facts

Celtic - 42%                  Aberdeen - 58%

Shots: Celtic - 9                        Aberdeen - 5

Shots on target: Celtic - 5                     Aberdeen - 2

Shots off target: Celtic - 4                    Aberdeen - 3

Corners: Celtic - 6                      Aberdeen - 4

Fouls: Celtic - 5                     Aberdeen - 9

Offside: Celtic - 2                       Aberdeen - 2

Assists: Celtic - 1 (Matthews)                  Aberdeen - 0 (None)




Celtic manager Neil Lennon

"I am delighted because the opening day of the season is always unpredictable to call- the pitch is always slower and the players are not fully fit and lacking in match practice competitively and it takes a lot out of you. I felt that any type of win would be great so I am really pleased. We looked leggy obviously the effects of Wednesday night (in the Champions League qualifier) took its toll. We defended really, really well and had control of the game but going forward, we looked a bit flat but that will improve as we go along. If you have a look at the statistics from the game, the players have put a hell of a lot into the game in terms of how much ground they have covered. As the game went on, we made changes which were more enforced due to a little fatigue. I am delighted with the seventy minutes that Beram (Kayal) had on the pitch and the substitutes who came on did very well which was an extra spark. We had a bit more of a cutting edge on Wednesday night- we worked the goalkeeper through Kris (Commons) once or twice but I felt that we didn't create nowhere near enough clear cut scoring chances."

Click here to listen to the thoughts of Celtic boss Neil Lennon after the game

Click here to listen to the post-match thoughts of Celtic goalscorer Kris Commons


Aberdeen manager Craig Brown

"I would like to congratulate the opposing manager but inside I am not smiling at all. I feel very disappointed and disappointed in particular for the fans from Aberdeen who support us very loyally and we want to give them something to be proud of. Unfortunately we couldn't do that, although midway through the second half, it looked as though the least we were going to get was a draw and infact we could have sneaked one. But we were very poor in defending the corner kick (for the goal). Every team coming here has a difficult game and I knew this was going to be a very difficult assignment for the lads but we had a chance today because Celtic weren't at their best but unfortunately for us, we weren't too. There were one or two disappointing performances out there from one or two of our players but overall I felt a draw would have been a fairer result although we just couldn't get it. We deserved a point there's no question about that. But for the goal, it wasn't just Jamie Langfield, it was a short corner that we couldn't react to properly. I think one or two of the lads switched off there- I don't like conceding goals from setpieces and normally we are so organised defensively from corners, so I was angry about that. I think it is fair too early to decide whether I shall stick with Jamie (Langfield) in the team next week. He is only getting slated because it is the goalkeeper who has made the mistake which is usually costly and it certainly was today."

Click here to listen to the post-match thoughts of Aberdeen boss Craig Brown


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