'Footballing gods' take control as Christie breaks Aberdeen hearts with Celtic winner
Celtic 1 Aberdeen 0
Brendan Rodgers slipped in front of the Hampden presentation box and almost tumbled down the steps, letting the base of the Scottish League Cup flip away from him on to the stairs.
By that time, though, the trophy had been secured by Celtic for the 18th time in a final which rarely threatened to squirm from their grasp.
To say as much is not to diminish the contribution of Aberdeen, whose character kept their chances alive and who could not have been grudged their reward had circumstances favoured them more than they did. Injury proved to be pivotal to the course of the contest when Gary McKay-Steven was left unconscious after a sickening clash of skulls with Dedryck Boyata, shortly before the break.
Boyata was able to play on, his head bandaged, until the hour mark, but Mackay-Steven lay prone for six minutes, attended by his club doctor and a group of paramedics before he was stretchered off and taken to hospital.
The long hiatus disrupted both sides, but more so Aberdeen, and they were struck another blow five minutes into first-half stoppage time when Boyata measured a pass into the box for Ryan Christie to control and shoot with his right foot.
Aberdeen goalkeeper Joe Lewis blocked that effort, but the ball rebounded towards Christie, who switched feet delightfully to meet it with his left boot and scoop it high past the goalkeeper.
Lewis drew scant consolation when he then saved a controversial Scott Sinclair penalty after the break.
Rodgers claimed afterwards that the "footballing gods" were at play when Christie hit the winner.
The midfielder had two loan spells at the Pittodrie club before returning to Parkhead at the start of the summer ready to stake a claim for a regular place.
Dons manager Derek McInnes revealed that he wanted to keep Christie at Pittodrie, saying: "We were close to getting him in the summer. We kept his number, 22, clear and it is still vacant so there is an irony within that."
"It is the footballing gods, what we've seen today," said Rodgers.
"I will repeat, when I came in he wasn't ready to play week by week, but we could see that there was a talent there.
"But for the level we want to attain and get to, you need a physicality and that power. He has had always the quality, I felt at the time he needed to get some games.
"It is a great demonstration of the different types of loans you can get.
"This was a development loan. I have good relations with Derek.
"Ryan went away and got that physicality in terms of body strength and durability.
"He came back in the summer and it was just about waiting for the moment.
"Like I say, football gods today, lo and behold he scores against the team that he was at for 18 months. It was a wonderful finish."
It is now seven straight trophy wins for Rodgers since he took over at Parkhead in 2016.
The Northern Irishman said: "It feels great, but my happiness is more for the players and supporters.
"It was a very satisfying win, we showed a lot of heart and fight."
McInnes was pleased to report that Mackay-Steven, who clashed heads with Boyata and was taken from the field on a stretcher, was on the mend.
He said: "Thankfully he was okay, he is sitting up in hospital, he is getting tests done. Hopefully, they will snhow that it's just a straightforward case of concussion."
However, the Dons manager was unhappy with referee Andrew Dallas's decision to award Celtic a penalty when Dominic Ball's headed clearance came off his arm, which appeared accidental and outside the box to boot.
He was also displeased with already-booked Christie getting away with what he felt was another yellow card challenge.
He said: "It wasn't a penalty in the first place and, if we don't have a goalkeeper like Joe Lewis, it could be 2-0 and far more difficult." (© Daily Telegraph, London)