Livingston manager David Martindale pointed out in advance of his team’s trek to Celtic Park that they would be facing a home side boasting a 40-times higher wage bill. It meant his club were champions every season when calculating points per pound, according to the garrulous Martindale. Flip that measure around, though, and it makes the West Lothian team the 2.5 percenters set against Ange Postecoglou’s title holders. And for spells in Celtic’s 3-0 victory, that figure just about covered the visitors’ possession as they were pulverised. To stretch Celtic’s unbeaten domestic sequence to 20, and extend their 100 per cent record at home in the cinch Premiership wherein they appear an impregnable force to 12 straight games.
Livingston should not be able to compete with the Scottish champions when the latter make the most of the monetary disparities to mould a team brimming with motivation. And that is precisely what Postecoglou has crafted with nous and poise. So much so that even his counterpart Martindale’s well-won reputation for being able to frustrate more illustrious rivals with a diligent defensive framework cut no ice in Glasgow’s east end.
With Daizen Maeda wreaking havoc down the left, Livingston’s goal could have been breached twice in the opening minutes alone. It wasn’t because Kyogo Furuhashi and Jota got themselves into right fankles when merely having to turn in flashed over crosses. However, it never seemed that those misses would prove costly to Celtic as often across the first quarter of an hour there would be no fewer than 18 players jostling in the Livingston penalty box. All but a quartet of the home defenders, indeed.
The matter-of-time breakthrough eventually arrived at the surprisingly late juncture of the half-hour mark. The source may have surprised, but not the manner of the set-up, with Livingston unable to cover all the spaces around their 18-yard box thanks to Alistair Johnston on the right chipping the ball over to Reo Hatate on the left channel. A twist-and-a-turn from the midfielder bought him the yard required to lay the ball back to Greg Taylor, unmarked 14 yards out. Trapping the ball with his left, the full-back then swished with the same limb to send a sublime effort into the far corner.
Three minutes later it was 2-0 thanks to a goal that was the latest oh-my for Ayo Obileye at Celtic Park. In October 2021, the Livingston defender was red carded and gave away a penalty (missed by the now on-his-way-out but still not gone Giorgos Giakoumakis). In late December of last year, he netted an own goal. His unwelcome three card-trick was gifting Maeda a goal by battering an attempted clearance against the wide man from close in only for the result to be that it ricocheted straight past him and into the net.
All that was missing from a monumentally one-sided opening period was the Kyogo Furuhashi moment. That duly came in added time. Sumptuous finishing and sloppy defending fusing to provide the Japanese striker with his 21st goal of the season and 18th in only 22 league outings. A raking long pass from his own half by Matt O’Riley that Stephane Omeonga failed to cut out, set Furuhashi away. Jack Fitzwater tried to stand-up his opponents, but the Japanese jack-in-the-box breezed past him before slotting in with typical finesse. Livingston’s success of the evening - apart from Bruce Anderson’s 38th angle drive that smacked the inside of the upright - was somehow avoiding further punishment as Celtic continued the procession towards their goal in the second half.