Celtic returned to the top of the SPL table today, with a 2-1 win over Livingston at Celtic Park. Following Rangers’ 1-1 draw against Dundee United yesterday, Celts are now three points clear.
It was a cold, wet, miserable day at Celtic Park as the teams emerged. An immaculate minute of silence was held for the victims and all those affected from recent events in Asia, in which thousands of people have died.
The noise level was deafening as Celtic went into their pre-match Huddle, but unfortunately, that was to be the loudest moment of the day. It was another flat atmosphere inside Paradise, something which will hopefully change for next week’s Old Firm clash.
Celtic lined up with the same side which beat Hearts exactly a week ago, which meant that Rab Douglas and Ulrik Laursen kept their places in the side.
As expected, Livingston, under new manager Richard Gough, shut up shop and played with most of their men behind the ball. It is certainly frustrating when teams come to Parkhead and use this tactic, but it shows how difficult it must be to play against.
It was a fairly slow start to the game and in the bitter cold, the crowd sat almost in silence. Celtic’s first chance of the game came when Aiden McGeady whipped a corner across, Sutton flicked on and Varga headed over the bar.
Soon, Celtic were to be 1-0 up. Once again, the opportunity came from a set piece – this time it was an Alan Thompson free-kick. Thompson put in a superb cross, which John Hartson met to put Celts into the lead, after 15 minutes. From then on we should have went for more, and brought up our goal difference a little bit, but Celtic went flat.
Celtic had another couple of half chances but too many silly balls were given away and we failed to capitalise on our lead in the first half.
Livingston’s first venture up the park resulted in a snapshot which Rab Douglas done well to turn over the bar for a corner. It should have worked as a wake-up call for our defence but from the resulting corner, Livvy equalised. After a scramble in the box the ball fell to Jim Hamilton who slotted home. At the time Hamilton looked offside but television replays showed that Stan Varga played him on.
As the second half began, Celtic attacked Livingston as if their season depended on it. Only a dose of bad luck or a fine goalkeeping performance was going to stop us taking the lead again.
At one point, it looked like it was going to be one of those days.
Celtic bombarded the Livingston goal, Aiden McGeady came closest with a free-kick which hit the side netting. How John Hartson was stopped from doubling his lead is beyond me, Livingston goalkeeper Colin Meldrum pulled off a fantastic save.
Aiden McGeady took Celtic’s next corner, and the ball appeared to roll up onto Jim Hamilton’s arm. Celtic were awarded a penalty from which Chris Sutton done the honours: 2-1 Celtic.
Once again, we stepped down a gear after we got the goal. If we had kept on going the way we had started the second half, it would have been four or five, but surprisingly, we seemed content with holding onto 2-1.
Admittedly, not much happened between the goal and the end of the game. Juninho replaced McGeady with about ten minutes remaining, and done nothing as usual. McGeady looks due a rest so we could maybe see Juninho start against Rangers next week.
Celtic ended the game with a scare. With a couple of minutes to go Livingston had a great chance to equal the scoring. Rab Douglas made a fantastic save, a stop which has probably earned him a start next week.
Looking back on today’s game, I am happy with the victory, but disappointed with the lack of spirit from the Celtic side. We should have continued to pond the Livvy goal and get this goal difference back to a couple of goals. After last week’s performance it looked as though we might have been hitting a bit of form, but today was back to sloppy punts up the park.
Next up are Rangers in the cup. Bring them on.
Celtic: Douglas, Laursen, Varga, Balde, McNamara, Lennon, Thompson, Petrov, McGeady (Juninho), Sutton, Hartson
Come On The Hoops Man Of The Match: Neil Lennon
Come On The Hoops Moment To Remember: Arriving home.
Come On The Hoops Moment To Forget: The last minute scare.
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