Aberdeen go joint top, but can they seriously challenge Celtic?
As Celtic made the trip back to Glasgow following their 2-0 win at Dundee in the Scottish Cup, Aberdeen took to the field on league duty, eager to send a message to the Bhoys that this league title isn’t over yet. And that’s exactly what they did.
Goals from Adam Rooney, Peter Pawlett, Shay Logan and David Goodwillie gave the 12,000 Aberdeen fans plenty to cheer about at Pittodrie as the Dons got back to winning ways against Ross County following their league cup semi-final exit at the hands of Dundee United the week before.
Deadline Day signing from St Mirren Kenny McLean made his debut and almost had an immediate impact, setting up Rooney in the second minute, although the striker couldn’t convert. It would only be ten more minutes before the Dons did indeed take the lead after an error from Ross County keeper Reguero allowed Rooney to pounce.
It took until the second half for Aberdeen to gain complete control of the match, when half-time substitute Pawlett scored from a tight angle just after the break. Aberdeen dominated from then on and played some lovely football, enjoying the chance to pass the ball around on a much better surface than the muddy mess they played on in last week’s semi-final.
Logan scored a superb curling effort in the 61st minute before Goodwillie slotted in a fourth just five minutes before time.
All in all it was a fantastic performance from Aberdeen, taking them level on 51 points with leaders Celtic. Even though the Glasgow club have two games in hand, fans departing Pittodrie on Saturday afternoon will have all been thinking the same thing. “Could we actually do it?”
This season marks the 30th anniversary of the last time the league trophy left Glasgow, when it was won by Aberdeen under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson. Rangers and Celtic have dominated the competition ever since and Celtic have won the title with ease each season since Rangers were demoted to the bottom tier of Scottish football in 2012.
This year, however, we may just – whisper it - have a title race on our hands.
Aberdeen made a statement of intent this transfer window, going out and bringing in McLean as well as West Brom defender Donervorn Daniels and ex-Dortmund man Lukas Culjak.
The Dons now have a fantastic squad of players and remain in just the one competition whereas Ronny Deila’s side are still fighting in four. Celtic have marched on in the Scottish Cup, booked their place in the Scottish League Cup final when they dispatched old foes Rangers last weekend and have a glamour Europa League tie against Internazionale to look forward to – with a match against Aberdeen themselves just three days after the second leg of that tie in the San Siro.
With several distractions for Celtic in the coming months, the dominos for a league title are very much in place and they are beginning to wobble. That March 1st fixture against Aberdeen at Celtic Park just 64 hours after a potentially draining Europa league tie is becoming more and more important for both clubs.
If Aberdeen can pick up maximum points before then – which is certainly possible with an away match at Hamilton who haven’t won since the first week of January and the visit of struggling St Mirren – we will have a significant top of the table clash for the first time in a long time.
Liverpool showed just how big an advantage it can be to focus solely on the league campaign as they almost won an implausible Premier League title last season. Perhaps Aberdeen can go one better in the next few months.
It would certainly be a shock, but if Scottish football has taught us one thing these past few years, it is to expect the unexpected.