JAMES McCARTHY completed his first 90 minutes for Celtic in the hard-fought 2-1 victory over Aberdeen at Parkhead yesterday.

The 31-year-old Republic of Ireland international midfielder arrived at his boyhood favourites as a free agent on August 3 after winding down his contract at Crystal Palace.

McCarthy, making a rare start in place of the injured Nir Bitton, came through against the Dons without a hitch and had a major part to play in the winning goal on the hour mark when he set up Liel Abada with a clever through pass.

Joe Lewis managed to beat away the shot from the Israeli winger, but Jonny Hayes’ attempted clearance ricocheted off the challenging Callum McGregor and spun into the empty net for the points-clincher.

SLIDE RULE…James McCarthy passes to Liel Abada.

THWARTED…Abada sees keeper Joe Lewis block his close-range drive.

REBOUND…Callum McGregor charges down Jonny Hayes’ attempted clearance.

THE WINNER…McGregor watches as the ricochet sweeps beyond the grounded Lewis.

McCarthy was quietly effective in the anchorman role and Hoops gaffer Ange Postecoglou was delighted with his contribution as he said: “James did well. It’s his first 90 minutes. He’s obviously had disrupted preparation.

“I’m really pleased he could get 90 minutes under his belt.

“It’s just a matter of games and opportunity and we haven’t had the opportunity to give him that game time.”

The Greek-Australian gaffer, speaking to STV, added: “I’m sure he will feel better after that. We are going to need him and need all the lads because we have still got 10 games to go before the break, including a Cup Final.

“Every game is important and it gives us a little more depth in there.

“Tommy Rogic should be back against Hearts on Thursday. Nir should be fit. We’ve got a lot of games coming up and it’s good we are getting some depth in the midfield area, in particular.”

END GAME…Ange Posetcoglou and Filipe Jota at the completion of a hard-fought victory.

David Turnbull was also impressed with the display from midfield partner McCarthy and said: “He was excellent, that was his first 90 in however long.

“He was brilliant and showed his quality for the second goal, a nice wee chop and a great through ball for Liel. He showed that throughout the full game how good he can be.

“We are going to need everybody because there’s a lot of games coming up in December, so it’s about sticking together and working as a team.”

Hearts, who beat the Parkhead side in the opening Premiership encounter of the season back in July with a last-minute goal from John Souttar, are the visitors on Thursday evening in what promises to be another testing confrontation.

The Tynecastle side are currently two points adrift of Postecoglou’s men and have played one game more.



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