Celtic winger Gary Mackay-Steven said his team are being spurred on by the challenge of Aberdeen as both sides fight it out for the Scottish Premiership title.Celtic temporarily opened up a four-point lead at the top of the table with a 2-1 win over Partick Thistle that ended a run of two consecutive draws in the league.However, the Dons cut that gap back to a single point with a 2-1 win over Kilmarnock at Pittodrie later on Saturday to pile the pressure back on the champions. Mackay-Steven said the Celtic players were thriving on the thrill of the battle and, with the sides due to meet at Celtic Park following the league split in April, admitted the title race could go all the way to the end of the season.
“It is nice to get the three points on the board early but we know how well Aberdeen are going,” the winger said following the win over Thistle.”We welcome the challenge. Aberdeen have shown week in week out that they are winning games and are playing well.”It is great for us and keeps everyone on their toes and it is good for the league.”This league is going to go down to the wire. But if we look after ourselves, that is all we can do.”Mackay-Steven put in a man-of-the-match performance at Firhill as he crossed for Leigh Griffiths to net in the first half before setting up Callum McGregor for the second just after the break.Celtic put on a dominant display in the second half but Thistle set up a tense finale when Sean Welsh netted a 85th minute penalty after Steven Lawless had been pulled back by Erik Sviatchenko.Mackay-Steven admitted the Hoops had made life more difficult for themselves by not being more clinical in front of goal.”Obviously they got the goal and put us under pressure in the last 10 minutes, and it is never nice when you are hanging on like that. But overall I felt we deserved the three points,” the former Dundee United players said.”In the first half we created a lot and if we had taken a few more chances, we could have made it a little more comfortable for ourselves. But this is never an easy place to come and win, so it is a crucial three points for us.”It was a 35th goal of the season for Griffiths and his manager Ronny Deila praised his contribution to Celtic.”He is an important player for us and he works hard as well so that is very good,” the Norwegian manager said.”He just keeps doing it every time for us but the team is playing well for him and creating chances.”When you have a good goal scorer like this it is important for the team but we have others who can score goals as well and that is a positive thing.”Dundee United remain rooted to the bottom of the table, eight points adrift of Kilmarnock, following a 2-1 defeat by Motherwell on Friday.(BSS/AFP)