Here’s a quick look at two of the factors in Celtic’s 4-0 victory over Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup semi final yesterday.
Aberdeen’s high defensive line exposed
As has been persistently mentioned, the red card after nineteen minutes ruined the match. Aberdeen started well and defended admirably between the sending off and half time. Before and after this period, however, was notable for their high defensive line. Time and time again they were caught out by balls over the top and in-behind the defence which the centre-backs struggled to deal with.
Celtic began the match with a high tempo and direct style which saw Gary Hooper and Antony Stokes beating Andrew Considine and Zander Diamond for pace too often. Stokes should have scored with a one-on-one opportunity with Jamie Langfield and another chance led to Hooper winning the penalty and subsequent ordering off of Considine, which again should have lead to a goal.
When Charlie Mulgrew opened the scoring after forty-nine minutes, Aberdeen had no option but to attempt to get forward more often and again found themselves caught out on a number of occasions by the pace Celtic’s front two. The second penalty, which brought about the third goal, also resulted from a ball over the top.
Celtic started the match in their lopsided 4-4-2 with Scott Brown tucked in on the right, virtually as a third central midfielder, and Kris Commons wide left. Commons started wider than he usually does, staying very close to the touchline and whipping in a number of dangerous crosses throughout the first half.
After the ordering off of Considine, Celtic were patient in their build-up play yet struggled to unlock the Aberdeen defence. After half time Celtic not only moved the ball quicker, they adjusted the position of Commons, moving him more central and this was the key to them finally seeing off their opponents. Admittedly, the first goal was the result of a set-piece, however, the sings were already there in the opening minutes of the second period leading up to the goal. Commons caused more problems from central positions, not least because his direct opponent was now Scott Vernon, naturally a centre forward, who had moved to central midfield after Craig Brown had reshuffled his side.
A further consequence of the tweak in formation was that Emilio Izaguirre now found himself with more space down the left and he got forward much more often than he had during the first half. As has been noted in the past, the key to stopping Celtic is to prevent Izaguirre's forays upfield. When 11 v 11, the Celtic defence looked narrower than I had noticed it to be all season, but with Aberdeen playing with one less striker and Commons slightly infield, this created the space for Izaguirre to move into and in the end Celtic destroyed the ten men of Aberdeen.