ABERDEEN 3 CELTIC 3
A STOPPAGE-TIME penalty-kick from Lewis Ferguson prevented Celtic from capping a breathtaking comeback at Pittodrie this afternoon.
It looked as though the Hoops had turned things around when substitute Leigh Griffiths rifled in an equaliser to make it 2-2 and Ryan Christie swept in a spot-kick only moments later to put the champions ahead.
However, with the game in injury time, referee Willie Collum awarded the Dons a penalty-kick and Ferguson placed it behind the motionless Scott Bain who elected not to pick a corner.
It was Ferguson’s second spot-kick of the day and, at least, that one looked more realistic than the first which was a poor call by the mystifying match official.
The Hoops were under pressure at the interval after going in a goal adrift after a dubious penalty-kick decision from Collum. Unhesitatingly, he pointed to the spot when there was a coming together with Olivier Ntcham and Ferguson in the 43rd minute as they went for a low ball in from the left by Marley Watkins.
Craftily, the Dons midfielder applied the brakes and there was nothing the Frenchman could do as he came in from behind to attempt to tackle. It was clumsy, but the match official bought it immediately and pointed to the spot.
Ferguson took the award and sent it unerringly into Bain’s left-hand corner of the net as the returning keeper took off for his right.
Remarkably, it had been Derek McInnes’ side’s only shot on target in the opening 45 minutes and it was enough to present them with the advantage at half-time.
Celtic were due some sympathy after having the greater percentage of possession and only being denied a memorable opener in the 17th minute when the luckless Ntcham came within inches of a tremendous goal.
There was little danger threatening when he picked up a pass on the left and drifted inside before unleashing a breathtaking effort from 35 yards. Keeper Joe Lewis stretched in vain to his left, but breathed a massive sigh of relief as the ball thudded off the outside of the post and flew wide.
At that moment, McInnes and his players must have thought it was going to be their day. They were to be proved correct.
The visitors had dominated proceedings and if anyone looked like claiming the breakthrough strike it was the team in green-and-white hoops. With a little help from a whistle-happy referee, who also contrived to book Callum McGregor in the ninth minute for a nothing challenge, it was the home side who managed the feat.
It had been a frustrating opening 45 minutes for the champions with very little seen of Albian Ajeti who struggled to make any sort of impact. Mohamed Elyounoussi struggled, too, but, at least, he was making an effort.
Jeremie Frimpong was also having a frustrating time on the right where he seemed more intent in cutting inside than hitting the flank. The player’s main asset is undoubtedly his pace, but that was nullified with his insistence of coming into traffic and inevitably conceding possession.
It would be difficult to fathom if he was playing to his manager’s instructions. Ash Taylor, Andy Considine and Co were only too happy to usher him into a congested area.
Diego Laxalt, on the other flank, threatened on occasion, but his final ball into the box was far too wayward to give the Dons defence any cause for alarm.
Seven minutes after the turnaround, Celtic got the goal they so richly deserved – and it was a cracker.
McGregor accepted a throw-in from Frimpong on the right and switched the ball inside to Rogic. The Aussie picked out his midfield partner with a cute, disguised pass and McGregor shimmied inside Taylor onto his left before slotting an effort wide of the helpless Lewis.
At that stage, it looked as though the Parkhead men were about to sweep their opponents aside. They kept on the front foot although a lot of moves broke down at Elyounoussi for a variety of reasons.
In the 65th minute, the Dons were back in front with their second shot on target. Unfortunately, Shane Duffy’s error-strewn start to his Hoops career continued when he made a mess of a clearance on the right. Scott Wright snapped onto it and placed a pass inside for Sam Cosgrove.
The towering frontman saw his shot bundled away by Bain, but, unfortunately, Ryan Hedges reacted quicker than Laxalt to smuggle the ball over the line.
In the 70th minute, Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths were sent on in a rescue mission for Ntcham and Ajeti.
And it looked to have done the trick with two goals in just under a minute.
In the 76th minute, the Hoops claimed another wonder goal when Christie and Rogic set up Griffiths inside the box and the prolific frontman whipped an unstoppable shot high over Lewis’ shoulder into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Moments later, Elyounoussi was sent tumbling in the box after a high and late challenge from Tommie Hoben. A stick-on spot-kick and Christie made a superb job from the spot as he rattled in at the keeper’s left as Lewis took off for his right.
With five minutes to go, David Turnbull came on for the tiring Rogic who had more than merited his place in the starting line-up.
Three points were heading for the east end of Glasgow until deep in stoppage time Collum deemed McGregor’s challenge on Connor McLennan to be illegal and Ferguson buried the award past Bain.
Three shots on target, three goals. The same story as AC Milan on Thursday night.
Celtic are going to have to battle the fates if they are to have success this season.
TEAM: Bain; Frimpong, Duffy, Ajer, Laxalt; Christie, Rogic (sub: Turnbull 85), Ntcham (sub: Brown 70) McGregor; Ajeti (sub: Griffiths 70), Elyounoussi.