Vennegoor brace gives Celtic victory

Celtic 2 Aberdeen 1

Celtic 2 Aberdeen 1

Aberdeen failed to nail down a UEFA Cup spot after going down to a 2-1 defeat by Bank of Scotland Premier League champions Celtic at Parkhead.

Darren Mackie equalised Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink’s 32nd-minute opener for the Hoops moments after Artur Boruc had saved a Jamie Smith penalty.

The former PSV player struck again after the break to give the hosts a victory which leaves the Pittodrie side just one point ahead of fourth-placed Hearts going in to their last game of the season against Rangers.

Apart from the penalty miss, the visitors will also rue an incredible second-half miss from Stevie Lovell as they contemplate the visit of the Ibrox men next Sunday.

Speculation that Celtic skipper Neil Lennon would miss the game proved unfounded, the Irishman appearing at Parkhead for the last time before leaving at the end of the season.

But it was his midfield partner Paul Hartley who had the first real chance of the match after 12 minutes.

Celtic broke quickly on the counter with Kenny Miller sending Hartley through one on one against Dons keeper Jamie Langfield.

The former Hearts player, still looking for his first Celtic goal since arriving in January, blasted his shot from the edge of the box straight at Langfield before the rebound came off his knee and past the post.

The Pittodrie side held firm until the 32nd minute when Vennegoor of Hesselink fired Celtic into the lead.

Miller tormented Russell Anderson on the right before teeing up Derek Riordan at the edge of the box.

The former Hibernian player’s deflected shot was parried by Langfield but only to the Dutchman who had the easiest of tasks knocking the ball into the empty net.

Moments later, as a hesitant Celtic defence allowed Scott Severin to set up Lovell inside the Parkhead penalty area, Boruc was called upon to make a crucial block.

Play raced to the other end and Langfield made a decent save from Hartley’s side-footed effort after good work by Vennegoor of Hesselink.

The game then produced a spell of unexpected drama.

In the 37th minute John Kennedy hauled back Lovell as the Dons striker shaped to go through on Boruc and referee Charlie Richmond pointed to the spot before booking the Hoops’ stopper.

After a couple of minutes wait for treatment to Riordan, former Celtic midfielder Jamie Smith sent the spot kick to Boruc’s right-hand side but the Poland international threw himself to make a fine save.

But in the 41st minute the visitors did draw level. The Parkhead side failed to clear their lines properly and when the ball fell to Mackie he drilled an angled shot from 16 yards low past Boruc and into the far corner of the net.

Seconds before the interval Boruc again had to make a close-range block to prevent Lovell putting the Dons into an interval lead.

But in the 49th minute the home side regained their lead and control of the game with a well-worked goal finished off by Vennegoor of Hesselink.

A reverse pass from Shunsuke Nakamura sent Hartley racing wide in the Dons penalty area although it appeared the Scotland international had run out of space.

The Celtic midfielder, however, did well to drill the ball back to the Dutch striker whose fancy flick from six yards out fooled the Aberdeen defence and sped into the far corner of the net.

Riordan scooped a shot over the bar before being replaced by Aiden McGeady in the 61st minute in an attempt to stifle the visitors who were showing signs of coming back again.

Moments later, Dons defender Alexander Diamond headed a Smith corner against the bar.

Lovell missed an incredible chance to equalise on the break after Smith’s cross from the left had evaded Boruc.

From around four yards out the former Dundee striker somehow put the ball over the open goal.

Lennon was given a rousing 87th-minute send-off as he was replaced by Gary Caldwell in what was the Irishman’s last game for the Parkhead side.

There was still time for Boruc to make another fine save, this time from Dons substitute Craig Brewster who had replaced Lee Miller.

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