Livingston 0-3 Celtic: Hoops return to top of Scottish Premiership ahead of next weekend’s crunch Old Firm clash | Football News

Celtic returned to the top of the Scottish Premiership after a 3-0 win at bottom side Livingston put them a point above Rangers ahead of next weekend’s crunch Old Firm clash.

The Hoops scored three second-half goals, with an unfortunate Jamie Brandon own goal giving them the lead in the 49th minute.

Substitute Paulo Bernardo then doubled the lead in the 72nd minute as he drilled a low shot into the bottom corner from outside the box, before Matt O’Riley added a third 10 minutes later.

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Jamie Brandon scored an unlucky own goal to give Celtic the lead

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers watched on from the stands as he served the first touchline ban of his career.

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Paulo Bernardo scored Celtic’s second goal

But Rodgers will be back in the dugout for next Sunday’s crucial title clash at Ibrox, live on Sky Sports, with Celtic’s comfortable win at the Tony Macaroni Arena seeing them now boast a better goal difference than Rangers, who have a game in hand.

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Matt O’Riley added a third for Celtic

Livingston, meanwhile, remain rooted to the foot of the table and, with just seven games to go, are in grave danger of slipping into the Championship as they sit 10 points behind second-bottom Ross County.

How Celtic overcame a sluggish first half and penalty controversy to win

Celtic players celebrate after taking the lead at Livingston through a Jamie Brandon own goal
Celtic players celebrate after taking the lead at Livingston through a Jamie Brandon own goal

With Rodgers absent on the touchline, there was a boost before kick-off for Celtic as midfielder Reo Hatate came in for his first Hoops start of 2024 after being sidelined by a calf problem.

The Japanese midfielder had Celtic’s first shot as he rifled over the bar in the fifth minute as the visitors struggled to create much despite their unsurprising dominance.

There was a contentious moment when Kyogo Furuhashi went down in the box under a challenge from Livingston captain Michael Devlin, but no penalty was awarded and VAR did not see any reason to overturn the on-field decision.

The controversy led to Sky Sports pundits Chris Sutton and Kris Boyd clashing at half-time over the decision as the former believed Celtic should have been awarded a penalty but the latter disagreed.

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Celtic were denied a penalty after Kyogo Furuhashi went down under pressure from Nicky Devlin – Kris Boyd and Chris Sutton have differing views

The incident overshadowed a poor first half from Celtic whose only shot on target came in stoppage time as Furuhashi drew a smart low save from Shamal George.

But Celtic’s frustrations were finally ended four minutes into the second half when they broke the deadlock through a scrappy own goal.

The goal came as Hatate’s close-range shot was superbly saved by George but then the ball unfortunately rebounded off Brandon into the back of the net.

Celtic’s second was not lucky, however, as substitute Bernardo played a neat one-two with Matt O’Riley before firing a low strike from distance into the bottom corner.

O’Riley then turned goalscorer in the 82nd minute as his low shot from inside the box squirmed under George to take Celtic’s goal difference to +51, one goal better than Rangers.

Matt O'Riley celebrates after scoring Celtic's third goal at Livingston
Matt O’Riley celebrates scoring Celtic’s third goal at Livingston

Kennedy: Players’ calmness important in win

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Livingston boss David Martindale and Celtic assistant manager John Kennedy reflect on a challenging game.

Celtic assistant manager John Kennedy speaking to Sky Sports:

“A controlled performance. We limited Livingston to next to nothing. We scored some very good goals, so it’s a pleasing afternoon because it can be difficult here.

“As the game went on we knew it’d open up. It’s easy at this stage of the season to get drawn into chasing something and doing something we’re not used to. We just continued to do what we do and that’s what the players know.

“The calmness of them maintained that ability to maintain pressure and eventually they break down and we get a goal, so that’s important for us.”

Martindale: Individual errors costing us

Livingston boss David Martindale speaking to Sky Sports:

“The game went how I wanted it to go in the first half. It’s the story of the season: it’s just moments within games and individual errors.

“When you lose the first goal against the Old Firm, the game becomes difficult at that point. The dynamics and complexities totally change and that falls right into Celtic’s hands.”

What’s next?

Sunday 7th April 11:00am

Kick off 12:00pm

Livingston host Aberdeen in their next Scottish Premiership match on April 6. Kick-off 3pm.

Celtic travel to Rangers for the next Old Firm clash on April 7, live on Sky Sports. Kick-off 12pm.

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