McDonald brace keeps McGeady's Celtic four clear at the top

Aberdeen 1 Celtic 3

Aberdeen 1 Celtic 3

Scott McDonald fired a clinical double as Celtic came from behind to move four points clear of Rangers with only their second away win of the year.

The Australian ensured Gordon Strachan’s men go into next Saturday’s Old Firm derby on top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League with some expert finishing.

Chris Maguire nodded Aberdeen in front but Celtic got on top after Gary Caldwell’s header was diverted into the roof of the net by Dons defender Andrew Considine moments before the break.

McDonald got away from his marker to drill home in the 72nd minute and he notched again in injury-time as Celtic controlled the final stages.

The visitors’ last league defeat came at Pittodrie in January when they conceded four goals from crosses, two of them Charlie Mulgrew free-kicks, but they showed composure and determination to bounce back from a goal from the same source.

The only worry ahead of the trip to Ibrox was the sight of Stephen McManus being taken off again.

Scott Brown began a two-match ban for Celtic but Scotland team-mate Paul Hartley took his place and McManus returned to the team that beat Aberdeen 2-0 at Parkhead a fortnight previously.

The Dons lost Zander Diamond, Jamie Smith and Derek Young to injury, while first-choice strike pair Lee Miller and Darren Mackie were still unavailable.

Mark Kerr, Stuart Duff and Tommy Wright came in for the hosts, who should have taken a fifth-minute lead when Richard Foster’s lofted ball forward caught Celtic’s defence square.

Maguire was clean through but his attempted lob from 12 yards lacked conviction and the ball bounced wide.

Celtic responded with some slick play from McDonald and Aiden McGeady, who both shot wide after combining in separate moves, the Republic of Ireland going closer with a curling effort.

The visitors were playing some neat football but Aberdeen were breaking with purpose and Boruc had to move quickly to push away Sone Aluko’s 20-yard drive.

Mulgrew’s delivery paid dividends again in the 22nd minute when the unmarked Maguire headed home from the penalty spot after the former Celtic full-back’s inswinging free-kick was allowed to reach him.

Mulgrew almost set up a second moments later when Boruc misjudged his curling corner but Scott Severin volleyed just over at the far post.

Celtic struggled to rediscover their rhythm but Jamie Langfield twice saved well from Hartley.

The Dons goalkeeper first pushed Hartley’s 25-yard strike over the bar after the Scotland midfielder had dispossessed Gary McDonald.

Hartley then had a low drive blocked after Celtic moved the ball across the face of the box and his cross from the rebound was volleyed over from 10 yards by McGeady.

Boruc punched clear from another Mulgrew free-kick but Celtic levelled in the final minute of the half from their own set-piece.

Caldwell bravely won an aerial challenge after Shunsuke Nakamura’s free-kick had been half-cleared, and Considine’s attempted headed clearance took the ball over Langfield’s head.

McManus – who received a mild rebuke from manager Gordon Strachan after being taken off at half-time against Hearts last month for playing despite an ankle injury – lasted five minutes of the second half before being replaced by Glenn Loovens.

Boruc came close to conceding a goal that would have rivalled his recent gaffe for Poland against Northern Ireland when his clearance cannoned off Maguire but drifted just wide of the post.

Celtic gradually got on top as the half progressed.

McGeady curled just over in a crowded penalty box and Langfield produced a superb fingertip save from Lee Naylor’s deflected 20-yard strike.

Caldwell was caught out by a long pass but he recovered to dispossess Wright, yet Celtic went forward again and Langfield pushed over Hartley’s looping header from a Marc Crosas cross.

McDonald then fired the champions ahead following some patient build-up play.

The Australian found half a yard to meet Andreas Hinkel’s controlled ball into the box and drilled a first-time shot just inside Langfield’s near post.

McGeady soon sent McDonald clear, but Langfield forced him wide and Nakamura came close from a 25-yard free-kick.

Former Motherwell striker McDonald was booked for shooting at goal after the whistle had blown but he was celebrating again in injury-time when he fired through Langfield’s legs after Nakamura had sent him clear for his 19th goal of the season.

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