PAUL JOHN DYKES:
The reassuring sight of Fraser Forster’s long-reaching arms, held aloft in preparation as Cluj squared-up to launch their corners into the Celtic box on Thursday night, seemed like a distant memory this afternoon at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
The 6’ 7” stopper, along with his central defensive duo of Christopher Jullien and Kristoffer Ajer, seemed to have developed what looked like a solid defensive partnership in recent weeks. Following the Europa League dismantling of the Romanian champions just three nights ago, Celtic fans were left wondering what might have been had those three been the bedrock of the backline when the two club’s met previously in the Champions League qualifiers.
That was all to change in West Lothian, however, when they came up against Livingston’s Lyndon Dykes. This technically-limited player, who had previously plied his trade in the Scottish Championship and Australian leagues, spooked Jullien, as he bullied him all over the much-maligned artificial surface.
That Jullien completely lost his composure after being battered by the peroxide-infused number nine of Livingston does not bode well for our double-header against Lazio, whose centre-forward is Immobile in name alone.
It wasn’t just up top that Livingston dominated either, as Gary Holt’s well-drilled troops closed down every hooped jersey in numbers; huffed, puffed and snarled after every loose ball; and at one point managed four keepie-uppies between four different players within a 50-yard radius of the centre circle, and at an elevation of up to 50 feet.
It certainly was never going to be an encounter for the purists, but Holt’s journeymen kept at it in the hope that Celtic’s nerve would breach. That moment came after just 26 minutes.
To lose Ryan Christie with over an hour to play felt like losing a goal. The decision to red card him for his studs-up challenge was correct on a day where the midfielder’s tireless energy was desperately needed, and blatantly missed thereafter.
Also preposterously missed in typically-Collum fashion was an equally scything challenge on Jonny Hayes by Keaghan Jacobs in the dying moments of what was a distinctly forgettable match for Celtic. Not that it would have made any difference to the outcome of a game in which Celtic were well beaten, but it was yet another example of poor and inconsistent officiating that simply added a black-eye to our raging self-induced European hangover.Listen to the latest episode of the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind
I think it’s fair to say that we won’t have many games like that. History and our record over the last few seasons prove this. We don’t have many games when nothing looks right or goes right and you face an opponent where everything goes right for them and they have heroes all over the pitch.
That’s why we all love the game. That’s why we invest so much time and effort and emotion that’s rarely reciprocated. Yes, I’m disappointed, just as I was disappointed last week, just as I was happy with us winning our first six games. Football always gives you hope and another game.
This reminds me of the 4-0 defeat at Tynecastle a season-and-a-half ago. A game where we were just second best from the first whistle to the last. The defeat was in the post from the moment we lost the ball after ten seconds. We would have prepared for Livingston but instead of trying to force our game on them we allowed them to force their style on us. Credit to them – they won every battle and we made the mistakes.
You could pick over the bones, highlight poor players, highlight mistakes, but there were so many it would be fruitless. We dropped points not by small margins but by not even being in the race.
Games like this can’t become a habit and are not a habit. I wish we were playing on Wednesday and I know the management and players will be wishing the same.
Celtic never won the battle in midfield and took too long in finding any kind of rhythm in a poor display at the Tony Macaroni Arena. Other than a 10-minute spell at two goals down did the players show any urgency in looking to salvage anything from the match.
That’s not to say we never made chances, Forrest passed up a good chance in front of goal at 0-0 after Edouard had created space in the box. A frantic second-half also saw half-chances too after good work on the wing from Elyounoussi, but it was a disappointing performance overall from the first whistle.
Livingston were the better organised team and made sure Celtic never got going at all. The deserved red card for Ryan Christie did not help, but the tone had already been set in the opening 20 minutes.
Livingston were the better-organised team and made sure Celtic never got going at all. With the international break, it will be a long fortnight now for the squad and management team after dropping five points from the last six available.
🍀 A CELTIC STATE OF MIND
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🏆 Livingston 2 Celtic 0