Celtic win Scottish Cup: Tom Rogic does it again, Aberdeen fall just short
More than 90 minutes had been played in this epic Scottish Cup final when Celtic's Tom Rogic went at Aberdeen, like some vision of a footballing apocalypse to a jaded Dons defence.
Him again. Him that always seems to have a say in these games against Derek McInnes' team, him that had already scored three times in this fixture this season, him that brought up the treble in the most dramatic way.
Rogic, in running at Andy Considine, was at a major advantage. Considine, like many of his team-mates, was a weary soul, a fighter who had given everything he could and who was now living on the ropes and hoping for a miracle. The boxing analogy is not out of place.
This was toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow for the longest time. Then, it was a one-way pummelling, Celtic on the front foot but the Dons refusing to go down.
The Australian went by the spent Considine like he wasn't there, then fired in the winner that brought an end to a great final and a heroic resistance.
The Dons can't chastise themselves. They can't really have regrets. They met a special team and took them to the wire. This was one of the great cup finals.
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Aberdeen's pre-match checklist would have been long, their must-dos stretching down one page and on to another. They had to have an inspired goalkeeper - and they did.
They had to have a brave defence - and they had. They needed a rugged midfield capable of upsetting Celtic's totem, Scott Brown, and shaking them out of their natural rhythm - they had that, too. And they needed the first goal - that was theirs as well.
The underdogs were fired up, no question. Fired up by five-straight losses to Celtic, fired up by the memory of their limp surrender to Brendan Rodgers' team in November's League Cup final and the wretchedness of the opening stages of their last meeting, when Celtic scored three times in the first 11 minutes.
When Jonny Hayes rifled in the first goal, there was an edge and energy about Aberdeen that made you shift forward in your seat. Before kick-off, they were 6-1 to win, but not now.
Another of the things on McInnes' list of must-haves was luck - and they got a chunk of it when Jayden Stockley, sent off for catching opponents with his arms earlier this season, avoided censure after connecting with Kieran Tierney.
Stockley pleaded innocence but his previous made you doubt him. He got away with it. Tierney, alas, did not. He left the field with a bloodied mouth.
His manager said later that he might need surgery. Scotland coach Gordon Strachan may have winced as surely as Rodgers in these moments. Scotland versus England is only two weeks away.
What every neutral wanted from this cup final was a contest, a game that put Celtic under the cosh and forced them to fight. We got it.
The champions, who levelled through Stuart Armstrong, had to dig deep and it was because they had to go to a place they have so infrequently gone to this season that made this all the more joyous for them. They were drawn into a game that tested not just their ability but their fitness and their heart, and they came through.
Some of the Aberdeen players sank to their knees on the full-time whistle. One or two did what they steadfastly refused to do all day and lay down and played dead on the pitch. They were broken.
Through the disappointment, McInnes saw hope. There are stories linking him to the Sunderland manager's position right now, but in the aftermath of the final he didn't sound like a man who was going anywhere bar back to Aberdeen to rebuild and come again.
There is a job to be done. Ryan Jack has played his last game for the club. So, too, Niall McGinn and Peter Pawlett. Nobody is expecting Ash Taylor to be around either. Meanwhile, Kenny McLean is said to be wanted by QPR. There's no surprise there. McLean is a fine footballer. Holding on to him is a thumping priority.
McInnes will comfort himself in the fact that Celtic surely can't have the same domestic dominance next season as they've had this campaign, that in the pursuit of progress in Europe they will show a little weakness at home. If that's the case - still a big if - then he'll bank on his team remaining in the box-seat to take advantage.
He has a big summer ahead, a summer when new players must be found on a budget, players who can build on what was, yes, a trophy-less campaign, a season of seconds, but one to be proud of all the same.
No Aberdeen supporter went skipping out of Hampden, but they retreated knowing that their team emptied themselves out there. Against these Celtic boys, sometimes everything is still not enough.