GLASGOW (AFP) – Celtic maintained their winning start to the new Scottish Premiership season with a 2-0 victory against 10-man Aberdeen on Saturday.
A Kris Commons penalty, after Aberdeen goalkeeper Jamie Langfield had been sent off for bringing down Georgios Samaras, put Celtic in front just before the break, and substitute James Forrest then wrapped up the points at the death.
The win sets Celtic up perfectly for their long trip to Kazakhstan to face Shakhter Karagandy in the Champions League play-off first leg on Tuesday.
Neil Lennon's side were not in league action last weekend, instead facing Liverpool in a glamour friendly, but they climb to third place in the table with six points.
Aberdeen, meanwhile, were left still looking for their first win against the Hoops at home since January 2009.
"It was hard fought and we set the team out to stop them getting a dominance in midfield and it took us a while to get going," Celtic manager Lennon said.
"We got a breakthrough with the sending-off and the penalty but after that I thought we controlled the match and I'm absolutely delighted and it's a massive win for us."
His Aberdeen counterpart Derek McInnes had no complaints about the penalty decision.
"I think the referee has made the right decision. There wasn't much between us in the first half and I thought we could get something from the game but unfortunately once you go down to 10 men and Celtic are 1-0 up it's difficult to get back in it," he said.
"I think 2-0 is harsh on us but we will pick ourselves up and be ready to go again."
With the Dons collecting maximum points from their first two matches of the campaign, the match at Pittodrie attracted a sell-out crowd of more than 20,000 for the visit of the reigning champions.
Aberdeen remained unchanged from the side that collected an impressive away win at Motherwell last weekend while French former Wolves defender Steven Mouyokolo was handed his Celtic debut.
There was plenty in the way of endeavour but little in terms of chances until the half-hour mark, when the visitors' Joe Ledley collected a Scott Brown pass in the box but the Welshman's curling effort was pushed away by Langfield.
The game's turning point came just before the break when Celtic were awarded a penalty.
Samaras chased down Charlie Mulgrew's long ball over the top of the Aberdeen defence and, after holding off the challenge of Russell Anderson, he rounded Langfield in the box only for the 'keeper to haul him down.
Langfield was shown a straight red and Calvin Zola made way for substitute 'keeper Nicky Weaver to make his debut, but his first job was to pick the ball out the net as Commons rifled his spot-kick straight down the middle.
Celtic looked to add to their advantage quickly in the second half and, after Aberdeen failed to clear a Commons corner, the ball broke to Samaras 10 yards out with the Greek striker slicing his volley high and wide.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the home side still pushed forward and goalkeeper Fraser Forster came to Celtic's rescue in the 51st minute, saving well from a Niall McGinn header.
Substitute Mikael Lustig came close to a spectacular goal at the other end before Forrest sealed the win late on when he collected Ledley's through ball, his shot hitting the legs of Mark Reynolds and looping over the head of the helpless Weaver.
Elsewhere, Inverness Caledonian Thistle remain top following a 2-0 win over Motherwell that maintains their 100 per cent start to the season.
St Johnstone jumped up to second place with a 4-0 win over Ross County while St Mirren drew 1-1 with Kilmarnock.
Scott Robertson scored Hibernian's first goal of the season to end a run of four defeats to earn a 1-1 draw with Dundee United and ease the pressure slightly on under-fire manager Pat Fenlon.