CELTIC saw off a dogged Livingston outfit to restore their nine-point lead at the top of the Premiership table.

An own goal from Ayo Obilaye and a Kyogo strike just before the break had Celtic cruising after an entirely one-sided first half, but their concentration slipped in the immediate aftermath of Kyogo’s goal, allowing Nicky Devlin to sneak in and poke home an unlikely counter for the visitors.

That gave Livi a little more belief, and a disallowed Liel Abada goal following a lengthy VAR check set up a slightly nervy finale.

The hosts negotiated the seven minutes of added time though to maintain their advantage to Rangers in second place.


Ange Postecoglou doesn’t like talking about it, and nobody else really wants to either. But yet again, VAR barged its way into the spotlight.

Here, the decision in the end to chalk off Abada’s goal for Celtic in the second half may well have been correct, though a touch by Livi substitute Morgan Boyes opened that up to interpretation.

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That was certainly an issue for the irate Celtic support, but what is a wider issue is the time it again took to review the call, with referee Euan Anderson receiving lengthy advice through his earpiece before eventually coming over to the monitor to have a look for himself and then disallowing the strike.

There were also a couple of lengthy on-field reviews in the first-half for handballs that weren’t awarded as penalties, and the officials must find a way to make the process slicker if they are to convince fans of its value.

Attack versus defence

Ange Postecoglou said this week that he wouldn’t lump the 10 Premiership teams together in his analysis in the same way that others did with Celtic and Rangers, but even he must admit that the challenges his players are facing on the domestic front are strikingly familiar from one game to the next.

As it was against Aberdeen at Pittodrie, so it was here against Livingston, with the visitors penned into their own area and Celtic camped deep into enemy territory, trying to pick holes in the massed ranks of yellow jerseys.

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They managed to with frequency in the first half, utilising the wide areas to good effect, flashing several crosses across goal before one of them, from Abada, eventually ricocheted off the hapless Obileye and into the top corner.

The second goal came from the same source just before the break, Abada whipping a low ball across the six yard box that Kyogo gobbled up, and at that point Celtic looked to be on easy street.

Remarkably, Livi pulled a goal back immediately through Devlin, in what must have been their first serious foray into Celtic territory in first-half stoppage time.

Ironically, when Livi opened up a little in the second half and got higher up the pitch, they caused one or two heart-stopping moment, not least when Stephen Kelly’s crashing shot had Joe Hart scrambling to beat away at 2-1.

Anthony Ralston showing he is ready to fight for his place

New Celtic signings Yuki Kobayashi and Alistair Johnston were paraded in front of the home support prior to kick-off, with the Canadian international presumably earmarked to fill the void in the right-back position should interest in Josip Juranovic materialise into something concrete.

With Juranovic still recovering from his World Cup heroics and Johnston not yet ready for action, it was the ever-reliable Ralston who occupied the position on the night – temporarily at least.

The big Scotland international was in the wars throughout the night when he was the one player Celtic didn’t really have an out-and-out replacement for, and he eventually had to admit defeat before the hour as Greg Taylor shifted over and Alexandro Bernabei came in on the left.

Before that though, in between bouts of receiving treatment for knocks to his leg, head and back, he served a reminder that he still has plenty to offer this Celtic side, no more so than when he slipped a beautiful, incisive pass between the Livi centre-back and full-back to set Abada on his way to teeing up Celtic’s second.

Abada vs Cristian Montano

Maybe it is his slight build, with the soaking he took here on a sodden night in Glasgow’s East End bringing his weight up to around the eight stone mark. Maybe it is his quiet demeanour. But Livingston’s Montano clearly felt that the physical advantage he had over direct opponent Abada might allow him to bully the young winger out of the game.

No such joy. Time and again the Livi man left his mark on Abada, quite literally, but the 21-year-old simply got on with the job at hand, finishing the night with two assists.

He would have had another goal to add to his impressive strike tally too had it not been for the intervention of VAR, but the most important thing from a Celtic point of view is that he showed unequivocally here that he would not be cowed by any roughhouse treatment.

Kyogo showing his value

It wasn’t all that long ago that Kyogo was going through something of a dry spell by his own lofty standards, toiling to find the net and doing so just once in a run of eight matches.

There was never any doubting his quality though, and the goals are flowing once more for the Japanese hitman, who hit his fifth in his last eight appearances here with Celtic’s all-important second goal.