Jota on the double as Celtic survive Aberdeen comeback to stay top

Jota grabbed a delightful double as Celtic emerged from a pulsating Pittodrie encounter with a 3-2 win over Aberdeen.

he visitors were two goals to the good after 20 minutes with counters from the Portuguese winger and midfielder Matt O’Riley, both back in the side.

Celtic looked well in control until goals after the break from Dons striker Christian Ramirez and midfielder Lewis Ferguson drew the home side level but Jota quickly scored a dramatic second to put the Hoops back in front.

The win keeps them one point ahead of Rangers at the top of the cinch Premiership.

It was another frustrating night for the home side and their supporters, who have not enjoyed a Pittodrie win over Celtic since 2016, while Ange Postecoglou’s side showed their mettle.

The early hustle and bustle of the game saw the Dons, with skipper Scott Brown, centre-back Declan Gallagher and midfielder Dylan McGeouch back in the side, trying to impose themselves on the Parkhead outfit.

However, the well-versed visitors, who had Jota and O’Riley in for Giorgos Giakoumakis and Tom Rogic, remained calm.

Indeed, Celtic should have taken the lead in the 12th minute when overlapping right-back Anthony Ralston found Daizen Maeda with a pinpoint cross but the Japan striker headed wide from 12 yards.

However, only five minutes later Aberdeen keeper Gary Woods and defender Calvin Ramsay failed to deal with a curling O’Riley cross from the right and Jota stole in between them at the back post to knock the ball in from close range.

There was soon more trouble for the Dons when O’Riley’s shot from the edge of the box, after moving on to a pass from Maeda, took a deflection off Aberdeen defender David Bates and ended up behind Woods.

It was a first counter for O’Riley following his move from MK Dons in January and it had the league leaders cruising.

Stephen Glass reshuffled at the interval and Funso Ojo and Matty Kennedy replaced Ramsay and McGeouch for the start of the second-half and what an impact they made.

The Dons got themselves back into the game when Ojo set up Ramirez and he swept a drive low past Hoops keeper Joe Hart.

Suddenly there was hope and moments later Ramirez had the ball in the Celtic net again but the offside flag was up but it was all-square in the 61st minute when Ojo’s free-kick from wide on the right was glanced in by Ferguson.

However, the home fans were still celebrating when, a minute or so later, Celtic ran up the park and Jota moved on to a Ralston header before bouncing a shot past Woods to make it 3-2.

Referee Willie Collum stood firm against the protests of the Aberdeen players presumably claiming Liel Abada had initially been in an offside position.

There was more goalmouth action at both ends as the two sides kept gunning for goals, with Ferguson having a header saved by Hart before flashing a free-kick just over the bar.

Maeda and Reo Hatate made way for Giakoumakis and Nir Bitton in the 75th minute and prevented Aberdeen’s quest for a third goal and although the Dons can take some encouragement from their second-half performance, Celtic again showed they know what it takes to get the job done.

Elsewhwere, James Tavernier scored one goal and set up another as Gers beat Hibs 2-0.

Tavernier’s fifth-minute penalty set Rangers on their way to victory at Ibrox, before Alfredo Morelos put the game beyond the visitors with a smart finish in the 57th minute.

St Mirren extended their unbeaten start to the new year after coming from behind to claim a 2-1 win against St Johnstone.

Callum Hendry had given the visitors the lead through a retaken penalty which was then cancelled out by another spot-kick scored by Connor Ronan.

Alex Greive then claimed the winner early in the second half to move Jim Goodwin’s men into the top six, while St Johnstone slumped to the foot of the table.

Danny Mullen struck the winner as Dundee came from behind to beat Hearts 2-1 at Tynecastle and move off the bottom.

The home side looked on course to tighten their grip of third place when they led at the break through Ellis Simms, but a Toby Sibbick own goal brought them level.

Dundee United returned to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Motherwell at Tannadice.

The home side took the lead in the first half thanks to a strike from on-loan Manchester United midfielder Dylan Levitt.

The Tangerines then increased their lead after the break with Tony Watt coming back to haunt his former club.

Kayne Ramsay claimed a stoppage-time equaliser to snatch Ross County a point in a 1-1 draw with Livingston after Alan Forrest had opened the scoring.

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