Livingston manager Davie Martindale made a staggering seven changes to the side that were held to a 0-0 draw at Celtic Park just four days ago, resting a number of key players with the Lions in action in the Betfred Cup Semi Final the upcoming Sunday.
Celtic were back to full strength and made six changes of their own, with the likes of Kristoffer Ajer, Leigh Griffiths and Ryan Christie returning from self-isolation.
The match couldn’t have got off to a better start for the Lions as after just 15 minutes they had the lead through an unlikely source – Ciaron Brown. A deep free-kick from Julien Serrano was sent into a dangerous area, and met by the head of the on-loan Cardiff defender, who headed him for his first Livingston goal.
Celtic were expected to bite back immediately, but it was the hosts who created the next chance, looking to double their advantage. The ball broke for Alan Forrest after a Jack Hamilton knockdown, and he drove towards goal. There were options to his left and right but the winger tried his luck, firing just wide of Barkas’ goal.
On 28 minutes though, with their first real chance of the game, the visitors equalised. A Leigh Griffiths corner was met wonderfully by Mohamed Elyouonoussi who delicately volleyed off the crossbar and in, leaving Robby McCrorie with no chance.
Then, just ten minutes later, the Hoops took the lead. Livingston had managed to clear the initial danger from another corner, but the ball broke to Callum McGregor on the edge of the box. The Celtic skipper for the night faked to shoot before playing a perfectly weighted pass to Nir Bitton who, despite appearing to be in an offside position smashed past McCrorie from close range to make it 2-1.
Just on the stroke of half time, it should’ve been game over as Celtic broke from a poorly worked Livi free-kick. David Turnbull slipped in the marauding Kristoffer Ajer, but the Norwegian was denied by a great one-on-one save by McCrorie, who was out quickly to block.
Just after half-time, Celtic again had a good chance to make it 3-1. McGregor’s long ball forward was won by Shane Duffy who had stayed up the pitch following an earlier set piece. The Irishman’s header found Elyounoussi who tried to dink McCrorie, but the on-loan Rangers keeper clawed away to keep Livi in the game.
The visitors were made to rue their missed chances on the hour mark as Jay Emmanuel-Thomas drew the Lions level. After some good work from substitute Jaze Kabia, Ciaron Brown had got forward down the left, cutting back an inviting low cross. It was met by Emmanuel-Thomas who finished calmly past Barkas to equalise.
With seven minutes to play, Celtic were reduced to ten men after some stupidity by their captain Scott Brown. After being pressed and harassed by 20-year old Jaze Kabia, the 35-year old midfielder threw a needless arm out to the youngster which caught him in the face, leaving referee Willie Collum no chance but to give him a straight red card.
Livi looked to take advantage of this man advantage but despite a big penalty claim being turned down, couldn’t find a winner and would have to settle for a second point in four days against Neil Lennon’s side.
On paper, another good point for the Lions with a heavily rested side, however maybe all three were deserved on the night. Nontheless, it marked an historic 10-in-a-row for Livingston, as they extended their unbeaten run to ten games without defeat. It also kept another fantastic record going, with Celtic failing to win in West Lothian for the fourth time since Livi’s return to the top flight in 2018.
Up next for Davie Martindale’s men was a trip to Hampden to take on St Mirren in the Betfred Cup Semi Final.
Livingston: McCrorie, Brown, Guthrie, Fitzwater, Lawson, Serrano, McMillan (⇔ Robinson 75), Pittman, Forrest (⇔ Kebia 58), Emmanuel-Thomas (⇔ Devlin 66), Hamilton (⇔ Reilly 58)
Subs not used: Sibbald, Mullin, Taylor-Sinclair, Pignatiello, Maley
Goals: Brown (15), Emmanuel-Thomas (60)
Celtic: Barkas, Taylor, Duffy, Bitton, Griffiths (⇔ Kilmala 70), Soro (⇔ Brown ▊ 78), Turnbull (⇔ Johnston 82), Christie, Elyounoussi, Ajer (⇔ Frimpong 78), McGregor
Subs not used: Bain, Ajeti, Rogic, , Welsh, Laxalt
Goals: Elyounoussi (28), Bitton (38)
Referee: Willie Collum
Match Report: Calum Brown