24 Dec Motherwell 1 – 3 Aberdeen
Adam Rooney hit a crucial strike after a controversial penalty award to help Aberdeen on their way to a 3-1 victory over Motherwell at Fir Park.
Rooney converted from the rebound in the 25th minute and Dons goalkeeper Joe Lewis also proved a match-winner by saving Louis Moult’s spot-kick 15 minutes later.
Scott McDonald had cancelled out Graeme Shinnie’s early opener with a stunning effort but the key moment proved Bobby Madden’s decision to award a penalty when Rooney went down theatrically after beating Motherwell goalkeeper Craig Samson to the ball.
The Dons restricted Motherwell to few second-half chances and Niall McGinn netted in the last minute to cut the gap on second-placed Rangers to four points in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
The pitch passed a 2.30pm inspection and looked in good shape given the heavy rainfall provided by Storm Barbara, although the wind proved a more difficult element to overcome.
Motherwell threatened early when Craig Clay headed just wide but they gifted the visitors a sixth-minute lead after Samson’s pass put Ben Heneghan in trouble. The defender’s risky clearance was charged down and Kenny McLean released Jonny Hayes, who cut the ball back for Shinnie to stroke into the corner.
McLean came close from long range either side of some nervy moments for his team following Richard Tait corners and the Motherwell right-back soon set up the equaliser in the 16th minute. His cross found McDonald with his back to goal on the penalty spot and the Australian produced a brilliant piece of skill to hook the ball over his shoulder and in off the crossbar.
The Dons soon went ahead after Samson spilled McLean’s 25-yard strike. Rooney got to the ball and knocked it to the side before throwing himself to the ground. Contact was minimal and possibly even initiated by the striker, who saw his penalty saved before dispatching the rebound high into the net.
The drama continued when Madden pointed to the spot after a major delay when Mark Reynolds challenged Keith Lasley. The Dons defender initially got the ball but caught his former team-mate with his knee after the ricochet fell for the Motherwell captain.
But Lewis saved Moult’s effort and Ryan Jack cleared off the line after McDonald’s follow-up eventually hit the post in the ensuing scramble.
Shinnie came close with a deflected effort before Ash Taylor failed to convert two excellent headed opportunities in the final stages of the half.
Lasley never recovered from the penalty challenge and was replaced by Dom Thomas at half-time but Motherwell made a slow start and both Taylor and Andrew Considine came close from headers.
Moult and Considine then headed against the bar within moments of each other and Samson saved from Shay Logan and Hayes as Aberdeen looked to wrap up the points.
Motherwell’s comeback lacked conviction and Hayes set up McGinn to sweep into the top corner from 18 yards after a loose pass from Lee Lucas prompted a counter-attack.