Virgil van Dijk’s last-minute goal earned 10-man Celtic a 2-1 victory over Aberdeen at Pittodrie in a Scottish Premiership contest that was laced with controversy.
Celtic captain Scott Brown was sent off in a bad-tempered affair which was preceded by a disrupted Remembrance Sunday silence.
Aberdeen went ahead in the 27th minute when Adam Rooney netted from close range following some unconvincing goalkeeping from Lukasz Zaluska, who started after Craig Gordon suffered a neck injury.
Stefan Johansen capitalised on some hesitancy between Aberdeen goalkeeper Scott Brown and defender Mark Reynolds to slide home 11 minutes later.
Niall McGinn came close on numerous occasions after the break – including a shot against the post – and he drew the foul that earned Brown a second booking with nine minutes left.
But van Dijk stunned most of the 19,051 crowd when he tapped home from two yards after the home defence had allowed Johansen’s corner to travel all the way to the back post.
The build-up to the game was dominated by the ongoing row surrounding Aleksandar Tonev’s seven-match ban for using offensive language of a “racist nature” towards Aberdeen full-back Shay Logan.
Celtic submitted their appeal on Wednesday and manager Ronny Deila and skipper Brown upset Dons boss Derek McInnes with the strength of their proclamations protesting Tonev’s innocence.
Tonev was left out of the Celtic squad though and the issue then proved peripheral until the second half, when Logan was playing on the side of the stadium holding the Celtic fans, who jeered him when he got the ball.
The home fans responded with their vocal backing, just as they had sung his name before the game, moments before the scheduled minute’s silence.
There was not even a second of silence though as some Celtic fans shouted and sang, both inside and outside Pittodrie, while others tried to shout them down.
The controversy continued into the game with a major flashpoint after two minutes.
Brown appeared to push Peter Pawlett over on the threshold of the box as he chased the Aberdeen midfielder but referee Alan Muir waved play on.
Aberdeen lost Willo Flood to a hamstring injury inside nine minutes with Barry Robson coming on. Celtic had made five changes with James Forrest among those coming in for his first appearance for almost two months following a hamstring injury.
There were nearly 20 minutes gone before either side had a meaningful effort, Anthony Stokes steering a first-time effort just past the far post following a sharp passing move.
The lack of goalmouth action continued until Zaluska failed to claim Andrew Considine’s long throw under pressure from Rooney inside his six-yard box.
The ball was only half-cleared to Considine who drove it towards goal. Zaluska got down to stop it but could not hold and Rooney was on hand to force the rebound inside the post despite attempts to stop him from the Pole and several defenders.
Van Dijk had a header saved and Celtic levelled after Charlie Mulgrew’s halfway-line challenge on McGinn sparked a quick break.
Stokes slipped a pass through to Johansen and the Norwegian slid to reach the ball and wrapped his foot around it to flick it into the net despite Reynolds and his goalkeeper appearing to have the situation under control.
The Norwegian almost emulated his midweek long-range strike in Romania moments later but Brown got down well to stop his powerful first-time effort from 25 yards.
The Aberdeen goalkeeper stopped a shot from his namesake early in the second half and McGinn three times came close for the hosts, shooting inches over from 25 yards before hitting the outside of the post from closer in and then heading wide from 12 yards.
The game grew increasingly hostile. Stokes received a yellow card following an exchange with the home support after he kicked the ball into the crowd, Emilio Izaguirre and Jonny Hayes were booked after the Celtic left-back reacted angrily to a challenge, and Celtic’s Brown was cautioned for the latest in a series of fouls on Pawlett.
Logan almost helped silence the visiting crowd when he helped set up Ryan Jack via McGinn but Zaluska stopped the midfielder’s header.
Brown got his second yellow card for taking down McGinn, who curled the resulting free-kick just over.
However, van Dijk stunned the home crowd in the final minute and Zaluska saved from McGinn in injury-time.