Celtic 2 Aberdeen 0
Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink’s fourth goal in four games helped Celtic beat Aberdeen at Parkhead and stretch their lead over Rangers at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League to four points.
The Dutchman broke the deadlock just before the break with a drive from close range following a Shunsuke Nakamura corner to take his tally to six for the season.
Scott McDonald’s 18th goal of the season nine minutes into the second half sealed the victory and piled pressure on the Ibrox men who play Hibernian at Easter Road tomorrow.
Vennegoor of Hesselink’s return to scoring form as the title race enters its final stages will be welcomed by the champions as they look to take enough points from the five post-split fixtures to retain their title.
Celtic should have got off the mark in the third minute when right-back Andreas Hinkel drove down the right and crossed into the six-yard box for the on-rushing Nakamura.
But the Japan international, notably poor in the air, got his timing all wrong and headed wide.
Aberdeen were forced back into their own half, and in the 17th minute Vennegoor of Hesselink had a good chance when Aiden McGeady’s searching pass from the right caught out Zander Diamond and Andrew Considine.
However, with only Jamie Langfield to beat, the former PSV player failed to connect properly with his right-footed volley, allowing the Dons keeper to gather.
Moments later, in the visitors’ first real attack, Celtic keeper Artur Boruc had to make a save from Derek Young’s flick after the Dons midfielder had latched on to a Richard Foster cross.
Boruc then had to make another save, this time from Gary McDonald after the Pittodrie midfielder had taken a Foster pass. Celtic defender Gary Caldwell headed the loose ball clear for a corner which the home side survived.
However, after Diamond had conceded a corner with a tackle on McDonald with two minutes remaining, Vennegoor of Hesselink pounced to open the scoring.
Nakamura’s cross from the left was helped on by Glenn Loovens and the Dutchman was able to slam the ball in from around four yards out.
Vennegoor of Hesselink’s goal was an obvious blow to the Pittodrie side.
However, the Dons looked sharp immediately after the break, pushing forward with pace if little purpose on a couple of occasions.
Aberdeen appeared to be let off the hook by referee Dougie McDonald in the 53rd minute when McGeady’s chip across the six-yard box was missed altogether by the swipes of Considine and Charlie Mulgrew with the ball then appearing to come off the hand of the latter.
That was the signal for the champions to reassert their superiority and a minute later McDonald doubled their lead with a well-worked goal.
The former Motherwell player worked a one-two with Vennegoor of Hesselink at the edge of the box before driving low past Langfield.
Tommy Wright replaced Jamie Smith immediately afterwards but there looked no way back for the Dons even though a couple of impressive dead-ball deliveries from Mulgrew soon afterwards had the Celtic defence under a bit of pressure.
Scott McDonald then found himself in the book after remonstrating with referee McDonald following a foul on him by Scott Severin, the Australian carrying on his haranguing of the official for minutes afterwards.
McDonald had a close-range effort blocked by Langfield after he had been cleverly set up by substitute Koki Mizuno, who had replaced McGeady.
The champions controlled the game all the way to the finish and will now look for Hibernian to do them a favour at Easter Road tomorrow.