Celtic secured a vital three points at Pittodrie thanks to Kristoffer Ajer’s winner nine minutes from time to put us 13 points clear.

Callum McGregor got the Hoops into the initiative early on, but it would prove to be a stuffier game than the first 15 minutes suggested. Aberdeen tossed countless balls into the box and got a deserved first-half equaliser through Ash Taylor.

As the game wore on it felt as though Aberdeen would be the team to collect all three points too. However, the mark of champions was on show as Ajer buried a superb finish as he found some space on the right side of the box.

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Here, we take a look at three key things from that crucial Pittodrie success:

3-5-2 may not be the solution every week

Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths

Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths (Ewan Bootman/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Against a better quality of opposition, the 3-5-2 may not be as effective as we would like.

Aberdeen showed today that it gives up key space down the flanks to better sides. The likes of Niall McGinn, Andrew Considine, and even Curtis Main got far too much freedom on the ball down both flanks.

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This isn’t something that Celtic generally have to worry about against lower-ranked teams. The 3-5-2 has been a rip-roaring success for us since January. However, six of our eight games played before today were against teams who aren’t in the top six of the Premiership.

Neil Lennon will have to take this into consideration for Thursday night. Our trip to Copenhagen in the Europa League can’t see us as open as we were today. A switch back to the 4-2-3-1 wouldn’t be a surprise.

Celtic prove they can still win ugly

Neil Lennon at Pittodrie

Celtic manager Neil Lennon at Pittodrie (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Much has been made of how impressive we’ve been since the break. Eight wins out of eight before today with 27 goals scored showed just how classy we can be on top form.

 

However, Pittodrie offered a much stiffer challenge. Celtic had to dig in against one of the biggest clubs in the league and against a team who were clearly up for a battle.

The likes of Odsonne Edouard, Scott Brown, and James Forrest seemed to be getting crunched into whenever the opportunity arose. Celtic, at times, didn’t look like they would get out of Pittodrie without spilling anything.

But Kristoffer Ajer’s winner ended that notion. It came from a superb piece of quality all-round as Edouard and Forrest combined to help set up Ajer, and the finish was spectacular.

It’s a key sign of the character this Celtic team have, and a timely reminder that they can do the ugly business as well as playing pretty football.

Bitton clearly ready to play regularly again

Nir Bitton, fit again after an injury lay-off

Nir Bitton, fit again after an injury lay-off (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Given the drama of today, the performance of Nir Bitton has perhaps gone under the radar.

The Israeli produced a solid enough display for his first start in over a month. He was playing in a back three that was shaky throughout, with both Christopher Jullien and Ajer struggling to deal with Curtis Main and co.

Bitton, however, didn’t do a lot wrong. He was composed on the ball, made some timely interventions, and managed to get in the way of some dangerous crosses to keep us level.

Better yet was that it was a full 90-minute outing for Nir too. That’s the first time he’s managed that since the 2-0 home win against Hibs back in November (Transfermarkt).

Bitton adds some key cover at the back, and with Jozo Simunvic also back fit again, Celtic’s defensive options are growing at a fine time in the season.

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