A game of two halves it might have been, but a barnstorming second half display from Aberdeen earned the Dons a well deserved point, Joe Hart making a couple of outstanding saves to deny the home side even more.
There were four changes for Peter Leven as he named his Aberdeen side after the 1-1 draw against Dundee. Back in came Stefan Gartenmann, Dante Polvara and Connor Barron, with Killian Phillips making his first start for the club. Leighton Clarkson, Angus MacDonald, Jack Milne and Ester Sokler were all on the bench, as was Duk, returning from illness.
Celtic beat Ross County 1-0 last Saturday and there was just one enforced change for them, Maik Nawrocki replacing the injured Cameron Carter-Vickers.
Proceedings at Pittodrie began with a minute’s applause in memory of Dons legend Ally Shewan, who passed away earlier this week, before kick-off was delayed for five minutes by an issue with VAR.
Celtic had an early free-kick in the second minute, 22 yards out and to the right of the D. Fortunately, O’Riley put the ball into the wall, but it was part of a strong start by the visitors. They thought they were ahead on seven minutes through Palma. A long ball found Kyogo, Jensen doing well to clear from him, but the clearance went straight to Abada. His shot was saved by Kelle Roos, the rebound dropping perfectly for Palma to roll the ball in, from a clearly offside position. There was a lengthy wait for VAR to make the decision before the goal was chalked off.
Celtic maintained control and Roos had to bat away a stinging shot from Palma on 11 minutes as Aberdeen struggled to get on the ball, then on 17, Scales headed over from a near post corner.
Graeme Shinnie was booked on 24 minutes after tangling with Palma and Nawrocki followed him a couple of minutes later for a foul on Phillips. McGregor flashed a shot over from 25 yards after Celtic worked a short corner and got him into space.
Palma had a real sight of goal on the half hour, the ball worked to him on the corner of the six yard box but his drive at goal was too high, clipping the top of the crossbar on its way into the RDS. It was all hands to the pump at the back moments later again, Nicky Devlin making an important block on another Palma shot.
Polvara almost had Miovski in behind on 34 minutes, Shinnie feeding the American, but his pass was just cut out by Scales. Another glimpse of goal came on 40 minutes, Barron’s ball into the box having Miovski on the chase, Hart beating him to it. Moments earlier, O’Riley had had a glorious opportunity, collecting a clearing header on his chest from a corner, but he speared his shot wide of the target.
Aberdeen got away with one just before the break, Roos having to come out to paw away the ball but it fell for Bernardo who, with the goal at his mercy, looped his effort onto the bar. In the second minute of added time, Jensen deflected an O’Riley effort just past the post. Gartenmann then did well to scoop a Palma cross over the bar and from the corner, Bernabei stabbed a shot wide of goal.
HALF-TIME: ABERDEEN 0 CELTIC 0
Devlin got away down the right four minutes into the second half, but his low cross into the area eluded Miovski and Celtic cleared their lines.
The ball didn’t elude him in the 50th minute though. Polvara played a beautifully weighted pass infield and forward from the right flank to give Miovski a one v one with Nawrocki. Advancing into the box, he stepped inside the defender and then bent the ball round Hart, not unlike his finish at Tynecastle – but not even VAR was ruling this one out.
That rattled the league leaders and Johnston shoved McGrath into the front row of the Celtic dugout, McGrath who was booked for the initial foul. Nawrocki was then very late on Miovski, but there was no second yellow for the Celtic man. Instead, Miovski was booked for pointing out the severity of the foul. From the free-kick, the Dons forced in two ferocious shots from McGrath and Shinnie that were blocked away.
There was panic between Nawrocki and Hart on 58 minutes as they dithered over who should deal with a long ball, the game very different to the first half now. That was reflected in Celtic removing Bernado, Abada and Bernabei in the 59th minute, Kuhn, Idah and Ralston replacing them.
A Barron corner caused chaos in the Celtic box on the hour, raising claims for a penalty before the visitors got it clear. A minute later, Phillips tried an audacious lob from 40 yards that had Hart chasing back to his goal in desperation. It was Phillips’ last touch, Clarkson replacing him on 62.
After so much good work from the Dons, Celtic were level on 64, Kühn running across the area and exchanging passes with Idah before his low shot deflected off Devlin to leave Roos stranded. Two minutes later, O’Riley had a shot deflected onto the post by Gartenmann as Celtic found a measure of composure again.
But the Dons were on the break after 67, Miovski playing the ball forward to Clarkson. One v one with Hart, the goalkeeper made himself big to save on the edge of his area, MacKenzie following up. The ball came to him awkwardly and as he tried to dig out a first time shot, it flew over. Within a minute, a poor Celtic clearance reached Barron on the edge of the box, his fierce drive saved by Hart.
Another fine save from Hart denied Shinnie on 71, Aberdeen producing some great football down the left, the skipper winning a header for Clarkson who pulled the ball back for Shinnie, his drive the Celtic goalkeeper saving with an outstretched leg.
On 77, both sides made a change, Duk coming on for Polvara, Nawrocki replaced by Welsh.
The Dons had the ball in net on 85, Miovski a fraction offside as he collected a pass from Clarkson to take it round Hart and deposit it in the net, but it was evidence again of just how the Dons had stretched Celtic in the second half. Palma was withdrawn on 87, Vata entering the field in the visitors’ final change.
A goalmouth scramble in the 96th minute had hearts in mouths, Roos doing well to bat away a couple of efforts on goal before the ball went behind for a corner, Welsh ballooning a header over the bar from it to end the game.
3 minutes added at end 1st half.
6 minutes added at end 2nd half.