Adam Rooney's 27th goal of the season allowed 10-man Aberdeen to maintain their slim Scottish Premiership title hopes with a 1-0 victory over Dundee United. Rooney netted a close-range rebound in the 39th minute at Pittodrie to move Aberdeen five points behind leaders Celtic, who have a game in hand. United lined up with defender John Souttar playing in front of a back four with dangerman Nadir Ciftci on the left of a bank of four ahead and lacked any threat until they were one down. But the home fans faced a nervous final 18 minutes after Barry Robson was sent off against his former club after catching Charlie Telfer with a flailing arm. The Dons held on without major scare though and will now hope in-form Dundee can do them a favour against Celtic at Dens Park on Wednesday.
Aberdeen were on top from the start and Kenny McLean shot well over from an early break before creating a better chance for Jonny Hayes with a nutmeg and a through-ball, but Radoslaw Cierzniak stopped the Irishman's shot with his legs. Hayes had another chance when he arrived to stab Shay Logan's deep cross wide of the near post after Rooney had barged into Cierzniak. Aberdeen continued to press patiently and McLean headed home from Robson's 29th-minute corner - but a split second after Bobby Madden had blown for an infringement.
The breakthrough came from another Robson set-piece. Mark Reynolds did well to not only keep the midfielder's deep free-kick in but get a shot on target, which was stopped by Cierzniak on the line. But Rooney was on hand to bundle the ball over.
United soon threatened for the first time when Chris Erskine evaded two challenges on the halfway line and played it through for Mario Bilate but Scott Brown was quickly off his line to block and Aberdeen eventually cleared after the United forward had cut the ball back. They were all set to break when Rooney's touch sent Hayes clear down the right wing but referee Madden had little option but to stop play with Bilate down holding his head in the box following Willo Flood's aerial challenge.
Bilate only lasted a few seconds of the second half before pulling up with what appeared to be a recurrence of the hamstring problems that have dogged his season. Robbie Muirhead came on and United had a decent spell but the first man to threaten in the second half was Flood with a fierce 25-yard drive that Cierzniak dived to push wide.
Aberdeen regained control of play but United were creating chances on the break. Ciftci sent Erskine away and the wide player did well to make space for a shot but Brown gathered at the second attempt
Erskine then set up Muirhead to curl into the goalkeeper's arms.And the game changed out of the blue when Robson was penalised for violent conduct 15 yards from his own by-line.
The Dons player had the ball at his feet facing his own goal and threw his arm out to hold off Telfer as he tried to clear down the line. He caught the United midfielder in the face though and Telfer went down holding his eye with Madden blowing for a foul before producing a red card following a chat with assistant Andrew McWilliam, who could not have had a better view. Robson vehemently criticised the officials before heading off but his team-mates ensured there was no immediate damage done as they held off United's pressure and both substitute Ryan Jack and Rooney threatened on the counter-attack.