IF winning when not playing particularly well is the mark of champions, then on recent evidence, Celtic may well be on their way to 10 in-a-row. But there is no ignoring the fact that despite the consistently impressive garnering of points – the three earned here against Livingston moved them top of the table – Celtic’s usually well-oiled machine isn’t running as smoothly as manager Neil Lennon would like at present.

On the positive side, if Albian Ajeti is still not fully fit, then there may be worrying times ahead for Scottish Premiership defences. The Swiss striker seems to be a proper penalty box forward, perhaps not as versatile as the pocket army knife famed in his homeland, but at least as sharp when there is a sniff of a chance around the goal.

Celtic boss Lennon even had the luxury of resting star man Odsonne Edouard in this win over the stubborn visitors after a rare below-par showing from the young Frenchman in the midweek win over St Mirren, safe in the knowledge that his £4.5m signing from West Ham would produce the goods once again.

It was his goal early in the second half, a first-time sweeping finish high past Livi goalkeeper Robby McCrorie, that ultimately proved the difference between the teams in an entertaining encounter, his fourth strike already in just five league appearances.

Not that it was all plain-sailing for the champions, who had to recover from falling behind in the first half after Jason Holt had converted a penalty. They did just that to lead by the break, Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie turning things around before Ajeti’s decisive strike.

Even then, Livi left-back Julien Serrano came up with the moment of the match as he bulleted a long-range effort into the top corner to make the closing quarter of an hour a little uncomfortable for the home side.

It was another win though in the end, but again, as in the victories over Ross County and St Mirren in the past week, there were some rather troubling questions raised for Celtic even if their players managed to find the answers on the day.

Lennon had intimated in his pre-match press duties that further tinkering was in the offing for this match, but it was still something of a surprise to see Edouard dropping to the bench.

James Forrest and Patryk Klimala were the others to make way, with Ajeti, Olivier Ntcham and Jeremie Frimpong the men to come in to a 3-4-2-1 formation.

Livingston opted for a safety-first approach, with Gary Holt sending his team out in a 5-3-1-1 and hoping to hit on the counter. But for a brilliant sliding block from McGregor they may have had an early opener too as Holt ran onto an inviting pullback to let fire from 20 yards, only for his shot to be repelled by the Celtic midfielder.

The home side thought they should have had a penalty as Christie showed some nifty footwork in the area only for his shot to be blocked by some last-ditch Livi defending, with the Celtic players screaming that a hand had been used by one of the bodies diving around the six-yard box. Referee Gavin Duncan thought differently.

Having been turned down at one end, Celtic were immediately penalised at the other as Scott Tiffoney's attempted cross came off the arm of Kristoffer Ajer, with the official pointing to the spot this time despite the disbelief of the big Norwegian. Holt stepped up and smashed the ball into the top right-hand corner of Vasilis Barkas's goal. 

The instruction from the Livi dugout was to keep it tight, but Celtic were soon back on level terms as McGregor bought a ticket for the lottery and hit the jackpot, with his shot from 25 yards taking a deflection off Nicky Devlin and looping into the top corner past Robby McCrorie. It was the midfielder’s 50th goal for the club, and he was Celtic’s best player on the day.

Minutes later, the champions had turned the game on its head. Greg Taylor did well on the left, hitting the byline and laying a low ball on a plate for Christie to fire home from close range. 

Celtic manager Lennon had to give his players a half-time chasing last week at Ross County despite his team leading, and it looked as if he may have given them another flea in the ear this time around as they emerged looking determined to kill off the game.

They thought they had as a delightful move involving Olivier Ntcham and Christie saw the latter feed the ball through for Ajeti running in behind the Livi defence, and the Swiss striker took it early to sweep high beyond McCrorie with his left foot.

That looked to be that, but with 13 minutes left, Serrano produced a moment of brilliance as he juggled the ball beyond a challenge before advancing towards goal and smashing a left-foot rocket past Barkas, who was left flailing helplessly at the air.

Indeed, the visitors almost grabbed an unlikely point in the dying seconds as debutant substitute Carlo Pignatiello found space in the Celtic box only to shoulder the ball wide from a great position.

Celtic finally wrestled their leg out of the jaws of the Livi Lions in the end though, with three points secure in another very mixed bag.