LIVINGSTON V CELTIC FC
Tony Macaroni Arena
Celtic travelled through to West Lothian to face Livingston right off the back of the Europa League defeat against Real Betis on Thursday night. To be two up early on to capitulate and concede four goals was gut wrenching but getting back to winning ways in the league is of most importance currently. Celtic also need to get a monkey off their back in the fact that the last time they beat Livi at their ground was 14 years ago when the Hoops triumphed 1-4 in the Scottish cup (04/02/07). Since then in 4 visits there has been three draws and one Livingston victory.
To say Celtic don’t fancy their plastic pitch is an understatement and to be honest it is atrocious. For any team in any top professional league to be playing on plastic pitches does not credit the game itself and is what the fans pay good money to watch. The whole first half was so lacklustre and the game was made even slower with the sticky surfaces draining the momentum right out of the match.
Celtic were busy and played a lot of ball in and around the Livi box but there was nothing really in the way of testing their defence and goalie. On six minutes, new boy Juranovic shot wildly over the bar from outside the box but the closest effort came from the Prodigal Son, Bolingoli. On 21 minutes the big man picked up the ball and decided to have a long range effort from the left. It was close but the Livingston goalie palmed it out from under the bar to be cleared by his defender.
Just a few minutes later (25) Livingston went 1-0 up with a smashing left foot strike by Andrew Shinnie. Celtic had the majority possession and Livingston were feeding off scraps but when the ball came over from the left Shinnie came across his marker Welsh to take a touch and rattle the ball beyond Joe Hart. His first goal for the club and a very important one in the process of getting their first three points of the season.
Celtic looked in shock but slowly regrouped to push forward again but there was no success in breaking through a tight Livi defence. One moment of brilliance by the Hoops was a clever through ball from Rogic to Ajeti who laid on for Turnbull in the Livingston box but the midfielder shot wide. Celtic could have been two down in 44 minutes but for a point blank stop by Hart as he turned it over the crossbar.
Celtic continued their domination in the second half but the tempo was still way off top gear. It was like watching two teams going through the motions with heavy legs. Obviously Celtic had a gruelling game on Thursday night but it’s the same every season whilst we are In European competition. It should be planned properly. It took until 52 minutes for Celtic to have their first real go at big Polish Keeper Stryjek when Stephen Welsh got down to head toward goal but the goalie saved on the line. A few minutes later David Turnbull had a long range effort but was held firmly by Stryjek.
Celtic were toothless and Postecoglou made a triple substitution to try to get back into the game. Off went an ineffective McCarthy, Welsh and Rogic to be replaced by Bitton, Soro and first game back Mikey Johnson. Immediately the Bhoys looked urgent as Soro began pulling the strings in the middle and Bolingoli was putting in a decent shift on the left with some nice range of passing. Although Ange had his team set up 4-3-3 it definitely felt like Ajeti was isolated on his own with Abada and Jota used for firing in crosses.
There was several opportunities for Celtic in the second half but the Livingston keeper was earning his wage. On 72 minutes he made a brilliant one handed save from Ajeti and then parried out a shot from Turnbull (78) and kept them ahead in the match. The best thing from a Celtic perspective was the beautiful skill of Bolingoli when he pulled off a perfect roulette to get himself away from his marker to advance forward. There were also efforts that drifted wide from Turnbull, Ajeti and Carter-Vickers. In the 80th minute Hart came to Celtic’s rescue again when he made a stretched one handed save from Alan Forrest.
The last minutes were mostly Celtic attacks but nothing to hurt Livingston as they defended strongly to finish as match winners for only the second time in the last 30 games. Celtic on the other hand fell to the Livi voodoo again and lost their fourth game out of the last five. We have also failed to win an away game since February. Seven months! Unacceptable for any Celtic side and the longer it continues the less likely it will be of Celtic winning the League back. The squad is very light and the players picked are not good enough to win on all fronts. I accept it is still early days and Ange is still working to find his best team and formation but he needs to be getting better out of what he currently has and that means beating teams at the bottom of the table. Celtic now sit in sixth position on 9 points and 4 points behind leaders the rangers.
Livingston: Stryjek, Devlin, Obileye, Fitzwater, Longridge, Williamson, Lewis, McMillan, Holt, Penrice, Shinnie. Subs: Barden, Pittman, Anderson, Montaña, Bailey, Forrest, Kelly. (4-5-1)
Celtic: Hart, Juranovic, Carter-Vickers, Welsh, Bolingoli, Rogic, Turnbull, McCarthy, Abada, Ajeti, Jota. Subs: Scales, Bitton, Soro, Johnston, Bain, Montgomery, Ralston. (4-3-3)
Possession Livingston 21% - 79% Celtic
Shots: Livingston 7-16 Celtic
Shots on Target: Livingston 4-5 Celtic
MOTM: Andrew Shinnie