Nothing sums up Celtic’s season of woe more than the loss of two more points to Livingston’s second string. Captain Scott Brown was shown a red card five minutes after taking to the pitch as a late substitute, leaving the bedraggled ten men to traipse from a snow laden surface with their tail between their legs once more.
Now 20 points behind arch rivals Rangers, Celtic find themselves trapped in a nuclear winter, a long way from the sunshine of Dubai. In a week when Celtic’s manager took aim at the club’s critics, the finger of blame for a pitiful season will once more turn in his direction. His position looks increasingly untenable.
After falling behind to an early Ciaron Brown goal Celtic rallied. Goals from Mohammed Elyounoussi and Nir Bitton turned things around. An equaliser from Livvy’s Jay Emmanuel Thomas after an hour came from nowhere yet pitched the champions back into a subterranen nightmare.
Scott Brown is shown a red card by the referee during Wednesday’s draw with Livingston
Brown gestures as fellow substitute Jaze Kabia lies on the ground holding his face
The Celtic captain leaves the pitch after being dismissed five minutes after entering the game
LIVINGSTON (3-4-2-1): McCrorie : Fitzwater, Guthrie Brown : McMillan 5 (Robinson 76), Lawson, Pittman, Serano; Emmanuel Thomas 6 (Devlin 67) , Forrest (Kabia 58 ); Hamilton (Reilly 58 2)
Subs not used: Maley,, Mullin, Taylor-Sinclair,, Sibbald, Pignatello
Goals: Brown 15, Emmanuel-Thomas 60
CELTIC (4-4-2): Barkas ; Ajer 7 (Frimpong 78 3)Duffy, Bitton , Taylor ; Soro 6 (Browm 78) McGregor, Christie , Turnbull; Elyounoussi, Griffiths 5 (Klimala 70)
Goals: Elyounoussi 28, Bitton 38
Subs: Bain,, Ajeti, Rogic, Johnston, Frimpong, Welsh, Laxalt
Sent off: Brown
Referee: Willie Collum
Sent on as part of a double substitution Scott Brown’s red card after four and a half minutes on the pitch came for raising his hands to fellow sub Jaze Kabia. After seven wins in 22 games the wheels are careering off Celtic’s season, one calamity giving way to another
Kudos to Livingston. The SFA’s Professional Game Board will rule on the fit and proper status of David Martindale before Sunday’s Betfred Cup semi-final with St Mirren. If it’s a purely moral decision then the rights and wrongs of a man convicted of serious drug offences at the helm of a Premiership football club will divide opinion sharply. If his impact as a manager carries any weight at all it should be a foregone conclusion.
Livingston entered this game unbeaten in their last eight league games, nine in all competitions. Not many teams have the luxury of resting seven players for a game against Celtic. Yet while Martindale left out the likes of Efe Ambrose and Marvin Bartley with the club’s first Hampden appearance in 17 years in mind, it felt like a comment on the current status of the champions. As a club – as a team – Celtic have barely stopped shooting themselves in the foot of late.
It’s a testament to the home side that no one was surprised to see them take the lead with their first effort on target after 15 minutes.
One of the many calamitous themes of this Celtic season has been their inability to defend set-pieces. When Shane Duffy clattered needlessly into the back of Jack Hamilton 35 yards from the Celtic goal there was an inevitability to how the movie ended.
Ciaron Brown heads home from Julien Serrano’s corner to open the scoring in the first half
Julien Serrano speared the ball into the area for full back Ciaron Brown to peel off Kris Ajer and Nir Bitton and find all the space in the world to bullet an unstoppable downward effort into the corner of the net. Brown’s first goal of the season was a goal Scotland’s champions had lost before. Many times.
The amateur psychologists sat back in their armchairs and watched. How Celtic responded would say much for Neil Lennon’s grip on the team. His grip on his own future in general.
The visitors had a claim for a penalty after nine minutes when Mohammed Elyounoussi was cleared out by Livvy keeper Robbie McCrorie as he headed a David Turnbull free-kick over the bar.Celtic claims for a penalty were half-hearted, but fruitless. Referee Willie Collum didn’t want to know.
Mohamed Elyounoussi wheels away in celebration after netting a fine volley to level
It took time for Elynounoussi to plot his revenge on Livingston’s keeper. When he did he managed it in stunning fashion. Aside from a griffiths left foot shot slashed wife of the post Celtic weren’t offering a great deal in attack. They need a flash of inspiration to get them back in the game.
It came after 28 minutes when Griffiths floated an inviting corner into the area and Elyounoussi volleyed it with his sidefoot into the top corner of the net off the underside of the bar. A stunning piece of technique, Celtic were level at 1-1.
The goal was the spur the champions needed. They claimed the lead within five minutes after delightful play from the captain Callum McGregor.
Fed a square ball on the 18 yard line by Ismael Soro the Scotland international shaped to shoot. As Livingston’s defence raced out to close him down, McGregor played a beautifully weighted disguised pass to Nir Bitton, standing unmarked 10 yards from goal. Looking suspiciously offside the Israeli took his time before striking the ball into the corner of the net with his left foot past the scrambling McCrorie.
Nir Bitton restores Celtic’s lead after being teed up by Callum McGregor in the second half
Celtic should have put the game to bed in the final move of the first move. A quick, concise breakaway saw David Turnbull pick out Kris Ajer racing through the middle. A bit more composure and the defender would have sent Celtic 3-1 up at half-time. Robbie McCrorie’s vital block kept the home team in the hunt as snow began to drift down in the Tony Macaroni Arena.
Celtic set out to kill the game after the restart. Full-backs Ajer and Greg Taylor posed a threat with their running, less so with their final ball
A one-two between Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie promised much in attack, but Ajer’s final cross for Mohamed Elyounoussi too long.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas celebrates with his team-mates after eqaulising from close range
As the snow became heavy, lying on a treacherous pitch, Livimgston’s fringe players struggled to gain a foothold in the game.
Yet a double change saw Gavin Reilly and Jaze Kabia take to the field after 58 minutes. And, with their first attempt on goal of the second half, the home team drew level. The goal came from nowhere within two minutes of the double change, opening goalscorer Brown skipping clear of Christie and firing a left foot cut back across the face of goal. It escaped the Celtic defence, but not Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, the giant attacker slotting low past the helpless Barkas from 10 yards for 2-2.
With this Celtic defence an opponent has no need to launch attack after attack. One or two efforts on target really is all it takes. As the snow tumbled down Kabia’s fizzing effort zinged past Barkas and wide of the post with 14 minutes to play or it could have been worse.
Neil Lennon shows his frustration during his side’s draw on Wednesday evening