Despite just 15% possession at Celtic Park, Livingston shared the spoils with Ange Postecoglou’s side after a phenomenal defensive performance.
Manager David Martindale made three changes from the draw with Dundee United on Wednesday night. Ben Williamson missed out through suspension and Scott Pittman was replaced due to injury. Alan Forrest had to settle for a place on the bench.
Tom Parkes was brought in for his first Premiership start which prompted a change in shape as Livingston went to 5 at the back. Stephane Omeonga and Andrew Shinnie both returned through injury, with the latter looking to make a similar impact to his last outing against Celtic after grabbing the winner in the most recent meeting between the sides.
As expected, Celtic started the game on the front foot and looked to take an early lead despite a silent protest amongst supporters.
David Turnbull’s edge of the box effort was blocked, and fell to Giorgos Giakoumakis who tried a bicycle kick, but that was blocked too by visiting defence who set out their stall from the first minute.
Anthony Ralston was Celtic’s main danger man, proving effective down the right wing having been reborn under Ange Postecoglou. The full back put in a number of teasing crosses which The Hoops attackers failed to convert.
The hosts’ next chance came for Carl Starfelt. The Swedish defender met David Turnbull’s deep free kick but his headed effort was always rising over the bar.
The best chance of the first 45 minutes fell right on the stroke of half time, through their best performer. Turnbull found Ralston just inside the box, and the full back tried a left footed effort which looked destined for goal. Max Stryjek was beaten, but just behind him was Jack Fitzwater who did brilliantly to read the danger and drop back onto the line to head clear.
Celtic continued their dominance into the second half but for all their possession, they had just one shot on target to their name. They continued to probe for an opener though as Livingston defended superbly.
Fresh off the bench, Mikey Johnston looked to make something happen. The winger made space for himself on the left before crossing the ball into the box. The cut back evaded everyone before Sean Kelly did well to not divert into his own goal, putting the ball behind for a corner.
It would be more of the same for The Hoops as the game approached the closing stages. It was a case of total domination, but lack of invention and creativity with Postecoglou’s men unable to produce a killer pass or a devastating finish, much down to Livingston’s brilliant defensive structure.
In a rare attack, Livi ventured forward through substitute Alan Forrest who had a shot deflected wide for a corner. From the set piece, Ayo Obileye looked to meet the ball with a header but instead appeared to be caught by Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart who tried to punch clear. The Lions will feel hard done by not to have been awarded a penalty.
In injury time, straight up the other end, there would be a penalty though as Obileye struck Kyogo Furuhashi off the ball. Stryjek had claimed the ball from a cross, and after a couple of shoves between the pair, Obileye appeared to slap the Japanese forward on the back of the head. Referee Bobby Madden pointed to the spot without hesitation, and the Livi defender received his marching orders.
Celtic had the opportunity to claim the three points as Giakoumakis stepped up to take the spot kick. But, as he so often has this season, Max Stryjek produced a game defining moment as he denied the Greek striker, diving low to his right to keep the ball out. The save was almost celebrated like a goal, as it all but ensured a point for Livingston.
The drama wasn’t done there though, as Celtic would have one last chance right at the death and it was Giakoumakis with another glorious opportunity to win the game. Johnston’s low cut back was met by James Forrest who tried to divert towards goal. The initial effort looked like it was going wide, but it fell to Giakoumakis about 6 yards out. With the goal gaping, the Greek striker tried to divert the ball into the back of the net but got it all wrong and sunk to his knees as he saw his shot trickle wide of the post.
Despite having almost none of the ball and being camped in their own have for the majority of the game, The Lions earned a share of the spoils had Celtic Park – and what a point it could prove to be. It was a truly spectacular defensive performance to come away with a point and a clean sheet.
Livingston continue their brilliant run of form as they make it four games unbeaten having turned a corner after their tough start to the campaign.
Match Report: Calum Brown
Celtic: Hart, Ralston, Starfelt (Furuhashi 58), Carter-Vickers, Juranovic, Bitton, McGregor, Abada (Johnston 58), Turnbull, Jota (Forrest 82), Giakoumakis
Subs not used: McCarthy, Bain, Montgomery, Welsh
Livingston: Stryjek, Devlin, Fitzwater, Obileye ▊, Parkes, Kelly (Longridge 90), Holt, Omeonga, Bailey, Shinnie (Forrest 73), Anderson (Panayiotou 73)
Subs not used: Maley, McMillan, Jacobs, Montaño
Referee: Bobby Madden