Sunday 6th March 20222. K.O. 12 noon
Almondvale Stadium. Livingston
LIVINGSTON 1-3 CELTIC
Scorers: Livingston. Shinnie (56)
Celtic. Maeda (17) Devlin (46 og) Forrest (55)
Celtic traveled through to Livingston hoping to get a win there for the first time since February 2007 when Derek Riordan scored a double. It was also important to get the vital three points to stay ahead of bitter rivals rangers. The game was between the two form teams in the SPFL as only Celtic has bettered Livi’s points haul since the winter break.
With all things considered the Celtic fans should not have fretted too much as The Bhoys produced a convincing victory beating the hosts 1-3. An early opener by Maeda set the tone for the game as Celtic showed their superiority in every department with big performances from every player in Hoops.
An O.G. by Nicky Devlin and a superb goal by James Forrest, both early in the second half, put the icing on the cake. Livingston did pull back a consolation goal by Shinnie but the game was clearly won by then.
The fans were in fine voice, per usual, as we took up three sides of the stadium whilst the green pyro smoke filtered through the air as it was wafted away by the swirling banners in the crowd. The tone was set for a great atmosphere to help push the Hoops over the finishing line and neither fans nor players disappointed in what was Postecoglou’s 50th game in charge.
Livingston could have opened the scoring as early as 6 minutes when Ayo Obileye struck a crossed corner only to see Joe Hart palm it out. Celtic seemed to heed the warning as they went about the business of finding the opener by pressing and pushing forward at every opportunity.
Celtic were awarded a penalty in 14 minutes after a Maeda shot in the box hit off the arm of Fitzwater as he steadied himself on the ground. The ball did play him but it was a penalty and Calum McGregor managed only to hit the right post. However, the opening goal was only a few minutes away.
A corner was floated in from the right by Jota, Starfelt flashed a header that Keeper Stryjek did well to get down and make a one handed save. Unfortunately for him it rose up for Maeda to easily head home from close range to put Celtic ahead in the game. It was well deserved.
Celtic were dominant in possession and were putting some really inviting balls into dangerous areas in the box but there were no takers. Some brilliant flashes of play by Forrest, Rogic, Jota etc seemed to indicate these Bhoys are prepared for the business end of the season and that made for a much better performance than we have shown in a while.
Celtic should have had a second penalty in 38 minutes when Rogic saw his shot blocked by the arm of a Livi player in their box. It was waved away by referee Nick Walsh. Livingston could have equalised on the stroke of Half-Time when a Free Kick was lofted in from the left, Obileye rose to head the ball only to see it crash off the crossbar.
Celtic came out with fire in their boots for the Second Half and it took only a minute to pull further ahead. Anthony Ralston whipped a dangerous ball into the six yard box, Obileye stuck a leg out only for it to deflect onto the chest of Devlin who watched it fly into his own net to put Celtic two up.
The Bhoys were turning the screw now and Livingston were desperately hanging on. Carter-Vickers watched a header flash wide then Stryjek bravely gathered at the feet of Rogic who had broken away into the Livi box. The third arrived in 55 minutes.
Jota picked the ball up in a central area and saw a gap ahead. He passed through to Forrest who had cut across his man into the box, lifted his head and rifled it past the Goalie and into the right hand corner of the net. The Wee man had been on fire all afternoon and back to his old ways.
Livingston responded immediately when they pulled one back through Andrew Shinnie. A long throw was flicked on as Carter-Vickers and Obileye wrestled each other in the box, the loose ball was stabbed past Hart by Shinnie to make it 1-3. It was against the run of play and nothing more than a consolation.
Ange decided to make three changes on 75 minutes with Rogic, Forrest and Maeda making way for O’Riley, Abada and Giakoumakis. Captain McGregor was also replaced a few minutes later for Hatate. It took some fluency out of Celtic’s play but it’s important to get legs rested and minutes into fresh legs for the title run in.
The game was rarely in doubt as soon as Celtic went ahead. The determination and pressure applied by the players was obvious for anyone to see and it was the perfect team performance. Jota and Forrest were ripping up their wings and were pivotal in this win. Starfelt, Ralston, Rogic and Bitton were all fantastic and great to watch after some previous flat performances.
Hopefully from here we can blast the Livi hoodoo out of the water and it was important to do that. Postecoglou deserves all the credit for the team he picked, the way he set them out and his team talk. This was the fixture that worried the fans but it could now be a big three points on the march to a title. Here’s hoping.
MOTM: James Forrest. Scored the third goal and marauds the life outta opponents on the wing. Cutting inside to see that pass or to make space. That’s the Forrest we all love.
LIVINGSTON: Stryjek, Devlin, Fitzwater, Obileye, Penrice, Omeonga, Holt, Pittman, Shinnie, Forrest, Nouble. SUBS: Longridge, Anderson, Sibbald, Montaño, Soto, Boyes, Lewis, Kelly, Konovalov. (4-4-1-1)
CELTIC: Hart, Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Taylor, Rogic, Bitton, McGregor, Forrest, Maeda, Jota. SUBS: Giakoumakis, Abada, McCarthy, Ideguchi, Bain, O’Riley, Hatate, Welsh, Juranovic. (4-3-3)
POSSESSION: Livingston 28%. Celtic 72%.
SHOTS: Livingston 6 - 24 Celtic
ON TARGET: Livingston 3 - 7 Celtic
PASSES: Livingston 225 - 580 Celtic
COMPLETION: Livingston 57% Celtic 86%