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McINNES PRAISES DONS’ MENTALITY

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DEREK McINNES praised his Aberdeen players, despite the 2-1 loss to champions Celtic at Pittodrie yesterday.

The Dons boss was proud of the way his team rallied after losing a 10th-minute goal to Callum McGregor that brought echoes of October when the visitors raced to a 4-0 interval lead.

On this occasion, though, Ash Taylor rifled in a first-half equaliser and it took a goal nine minutes from the end by Kristoffer Ajer to settle the issue in favour of the Neil Lennon’s men.

McInnes applauded his squad for their strong mentality before and all the way through an absorbing encounter with both sides battling for supremacy in trying conditions.

The Pittodrie gaffer, speaking to the Evening Express, said: “When you play against a team of Celtic’s quality, the battle starts in your head in the tunnel and the dressing room.

“You have to make sure you go out with the right mindset because it is clear you have to try to disrupt Celtic.

“We went out to get a positive result and, ultimately, we never. However, we gave ourselves every chance to get a result.

FIRST BLOOD TO CELTIC…Callum McGregor steers the ball beyond Joe Lewis.

“The intent from our team was clear and we got after them, annoyed them and put Celtic under pressure.

“You cannot stand off Celtic. We had the belief at Celtic Park (a 2-1 defeat in December) when we played them earlier in the season.

“The reference point everyone will come back to is the last game at Pittodrie against Celtic where we were timid and didn’t ask the question.

“Where we stood off them and admired them and let them enjoy the game.

“We didn’t do that this time. We got after Celtic and thought we were the better team with Celtic in a back five.

“When Celtic changed to a back four, I thought we were the better team then.”

THE EQUALISER…Ash Taylor sweeps the ball past Fraser Forster.

DON’S DELIGHT…Ash Taylor turns away after scoring.

He added: “We spoke at half-time about the mentality of the Celtic team next door.

“How at no point do they ever accept not winning. How every one of those Celtic players will be thinking they have to go on and win the game because that is the demand on them.

“We said to our players that we had to have the exact same mindset. At no point in the game did I think up until they scored a second goal that we would settle for a point.

“We had to go out in exactly the same manner to try to get that winning goal.

THE WINNER…Kristoffer Ajer clips the ball over Joe Lewis.

“I thought we were close to doing exactly that. We tried to do everything we could to ask the questions of Celtic.

“It was exactly how my team needed to play against a good Celtic side. I felt the performance merited something from the game.

“But, unfortunately, we don’t get any points for the performance.”

The Hoops have now taken maximum points from the Dons after three meetings in this campaign, but they haven’t had to work harder than they did yesterday.

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Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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