James Forrest’s first Premiership goal of the season helped Celtic to their first victory at Livingston since 2007. Forrest hit Celtic’s third goal in a 3-1 win, their first in six matches at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
Daizen Maeda put Celtic ahead in the 17th minute, soon after Callum McGregor missed a penalty, and Nicky Devlin’s own goal doubled the visitors’ lead in the opening moments of the second half.
Andrew Shinnie pulled a goal back within a minute of Forrest’s 55th-minute effort, but there was never any danger of Celtic relinquishing their lead as they restored their three-point advantage over Rangers in the table with eight games left.
“The players knew it was a challenge,” said Ange Postecoglu. “They went about it the right way and didn’t shy away from it. We set the right tempo and intent from the first minutes. It is hard sometimes when the opposition sit deeper, but as good as were with the ball I thought we were outstanding without it. We hunted in packs, we won the ball and we didn’t give them a moment’s rest.”
Celtic had not scored in their previous two games against Livi this season and the home side had pushed up to the top six by collecting 17 points so far in 2022. Postecoglou recalled the long-serving quartet Anthony Ralston, Nir Bitton, Forrest and Tom Rogic in an effort to find solutions to their difficulties in West Lothian. His side produced a commanding performance which stretched their unbeaten domestic run to 29 games since their previous visit.
Celtic put some crosses in early on but it was the hosts who posed the first serious threat when Ayo Obileye met a corner. Joe Hart pulled off an impressive diving stop. The visitors soon piled on the pressure and were awarded a 15th-minute penalty by Nick Walsh for handball when Maeda’s shot hit the grounded Jack Fitzwater from close range.
With their main penalty taker, Josip Juranovic, on the bench, McGregor stepped up but struck his effort against a post. It was his second penalty miss of the season and Celtic’s second against Livi this term, Giorgos Giakoumakis the culprit last time out.
The first goal came after a hotly disputed corner award when Ralston slipped while trying to cross the ball under pressure from Jason Holt. Jota delivered and Carl Starfelt glanced a header at the near post. Max Stryjek pulled off a good diving stop, but Maeda was on hand to nod the ball over the line.
Rogic and Jota threatened from long range as Celtic remained in control without maintaining the same intensity. Forrest looked as if he was in as he chested down Bitton’s ball over the top but jarred his ankle. The chance was lost but the winger recovered after treatment.
Obileye came even closer in the final minute of the half when he met a free-kick and headed against the bar. Joel Nouble was off target from the rebound.
Celtic doubled their lead seconds after the restart. Maeda missed Ralston’s cross and the ball flashed in off Devlin, with Jota in close proximity.
Stryjek came out to foil Rogic before Forrest made it 3-0 when he ran on to Jota’s through ball and fired a left-footed strike beyond the goalkeeper.
Livi responded immediately when Devlin’s long throw was flicked on and Shinnie stabbed home at the near post. But Celtic remained in control and could have added to their lead. Forrest threatened again and Stryjek stopped Maeda’s first-time effort with his foot after a sweeping move.
“I don’t think we deserved a lot more from the game, but two big decisions went against us which led to two goals,” said David Martindale. “The first one was a blatant bye-kick. You still have to defend the corner a lot better than we did. For the second goal, there is a handball by Rogic in the middle of the park. Again, we still have to defend the area better than we did. I don’t think these decisions changed the result, but they changed the dynamics of the game.”