There was heartbreak for Livingston at the death as Celtic scored a last-gasp equaliser to salvage a 2-2 draw in West Lothian.
Errors caused the opening goals in this match and it was who Celtic drew first blood after 16 minutes. Steve Lawson failed to deal with a Greg Taylor cross into the Livi danger area, allowing Callum McGregor to bury an effort from 18 yards.
Just as surprisingly up the other end, Celtic keeper Fraser Forster made a hash of collecting Ciaron Brown’s long throw-in, allowing Jon Guthrie to fire into an empty net. Unfortunate moments had this game at 1-1 but Lyndon Dykes’ moment of quality inside a minute of the second half had him past Christopher Julien, setting up Scott Robinson for a tap-in. It looked set to be their night before Tom Rogic turned in Odsonne Edouard’s late cross from close range.
There were some interesting dynamics to consider during this. Would Livingston make it eight home wins on the spin? Could they stop Celtic making it 12 consecutive domestic wins? Was Efe Ambrose going to be a stumbling block for his old side in Livi colours?
As you’d expect, Celtic were dominant in possession early on, Gary Holt’s side hardly getting a sniff during a cagey first 15 minutes. That being said, they were their usual sturdy selves at the back too.
But a moment of error allowed the visitors to go in front. Lawson took a fresh air shot at Taylor’s cross with McGregor lurking behind to dispatch a high finish into the net.
For Lawson’s misplaced clearance, Celtic presented a lesson on how not to deal with a long shy. Brown launched the ball into the box and Forster dropped it as bodies began to swarm around Celtic’s talented stopper. Stand-in Livi captain Guthrie was the man on hand to deal out error punishment and equalise for the home team.
This seemed to miff the three stands full of Celtic supporters as nerves began to creep in around the green and white sections of the stadium. Edouard’s effort off the post as the interval loomed presented them with a false dawn a lead was about to be restored. There was probably no one more relieved than Lawson when that hit the post after he was robbed in possession in the build-up to that chance.
Robby McCrorie stopped Taylor too before half time as Holt’s men frustrated Neil Lennon’s Hoops. Half time came just as Celtic were creeping back into their attacking groove, but alas, Livi were still level.
And within a minute of the second half restart they were ahead. Dykes sold Julien down the river with a lovely bit of movement and unselfishly squared it to Robinson, who netted with a six yard smash into an empty net.
Livi were swinging with everything they had and played some attractive stuff when they had the chance. It was a combination Celtic weren’t really dealing with properly as Holt’s men edged closer to a second shock over the champions with second half minutes ticking down.
Ambrose was alert to clear Edouard’s shot with a brilliant header as it hurtled goalward just after the hour mark. Celtic were banging on the door and Livi were putting up every barrier possible to stop them breaking it down. It was last ditch at times, heroic at others, but Holt’s soldiers fought relentlessly to keep it 2-1.
It was almost 3-1 as Dykes beat Julien again, his effort going high and wide with just over 15 minutes to go, so close they were to surely wrapping a big win up. So close that they got to within a minute of normal time.
That’s when the painful punch hit them square in the face. Edouard galloped up the line and Livi couldn’t clear, and despite their best efforts, Rogic managed to beat McCrorie. It’s still a very good point for Livingston although it could have been so much more if it weren’t for fine margins. Here are three things we learned
Livi’s home record
Having won their last seven on home soil prior to this meeting, Holt’s side were surely fancying their chances against anyone in West Lothian. Their remarkable 2-0 win over Celtic earlier this season showed they can match even the best at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
It’s now nine unbeaten and this was perhaps the best performance of the lot. They can count themselves very unlucky here.
Livi have utilised the long-throw in to great effect in some games and this time it was Celtic’s turn to struggle with it. Brown’s launches would bobbled in the box or spark a fight for the ball in the air.
It caught goalkeeper Forster out for Livi’s first goal as this tactic continued to prove its worth for Holt.
Livi’s rise is well-documented but how good it must be to associate yourself with the West Lothian club right now. After watching your team battle it out in League One just a few seasons ago now, you’re now being treated to a race for European football whilst beating and drawing with the reigning champions at home in one term- having never beaten them before this campaign.
Fans of the club have heard this plenty of times but they deserve huge credit for all the work they put in on and off the park. This game painted that picture perfectly, achieving major success against the odds through sheer willpower with an added sprinkling of skill.