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CELTIC 0 LIVINGSTON 0: SCORELESS AND CLUELESS FOR DISMAL HOOPS

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CELTIC 0 LIVINGSTON 0

DISMAL Celtic are still waiting for their first win in 2021 after a drab goalless affair with Livingston at Parkhead this afternoon.

Following a defeat at Ibrox and a draw with Hibs, it was all-square again after another fairly wretched performance against the West Lothian side.

Nine points up for grabs in their quest for a historic tenth successive title and only two claimed. That just about tells you the story of a dreadful campaign.

In the opening 20 minutes it was clear why Livi had won eight successive games as they set about making life extremely difficult for the hosts.

They snapped into challenges, covered well and broke forward in numbers looking for the half-chance that would pile even more pressure on the Hoops.

Nir Bitton did well to block a rasping low drive from Nicky Devlin, but the best opportunity of the first-half fell to Jeremie Frimpong as a ball was deflected into his path in the 22nd minute.

The Dutch ace carried it into the box and fired a low drive that was beaten away by keeper Max Stryjek at his left-hand upright.

It rebounded back to Frimpong who lost his composure at the crucial moment as he swung wildly at the ball with his left foot and sent an effort waywardly over the bar. If he had taken a moment’s time, he would have noticed Tom Rogic unguarded at the back post.

Comeback Bhoy Anthony Ralston, making a rare first-team appearance, was booked by referee John Beaton who did not hesitate to flash a yellow card following a heavy challenge on Josh Mullin.

The Hoops were performing as you would expect a makeshift team to play. There was little cohesion and understanding and Mikey Johnston and Rogic didn’t look clear as to what positions they should be picking up.

There were flashes from David Turnbull, but he had clearly been marked down as a major threat by the visitors who were swift to swarm around him when he had the ball.

Callum McGregor tried to play a captain’s part when he thumped in a 25-yarder, but his precision was off and the ball hurtled over the crossbar.

Scott Pittman bundled over Ralston at the touchline, but the ref kept his cards in his pocket.

Livi were winning a series of corner-kicks and setplays and putting pressure on Conor Hazard with Marvin Bartley keeping him company most of the time. Unfortunately, the young Irishman, despite his 6ft 5in frame, still looked unconvincing when balls dropped into the area.

The keeper again looked hesitant in coming for a through ball as Shane Duffy screened Scott Robinson. It eventually ended up in the arms of the rookie netminder, but there was a flash of concern before the danger was cleared.

It was goalless at half-time and Celtic traipsed off knowing they would have to raise the tempo in the second period.

Six minutes after the interval, Robinson had a glorious chance to punish more hesitancy in the Celtic defence when he was allowed to get in a close-range header following a trademark long throw=in from Ciaran Brown. Luckily for Duffy and Bitton, his effort swept wide of Hazard’s left-hand upright.

There was another moment of alarm for the Hoops in the 56th minute when Steve Lawson sent Robinson scampering through the middle and he walloped a drive just wide of Hazard’s goal.

Frimpong then raced clear in the oppositions’ box and picked out Johnston who dithered on the ball and had his shot blocked and Livi breathed a sigh of relief. Moments later, Diego Laxalt was next to see a shot diverted to safety.

In the 65th minute, Johnston was taken off with Euan Henderson coming on to take his place.

Two minutes later, ex-Hoops defender Efe Ambrose headed wide from a right-wing corner-kick with Hazard again rooted to his line and refusing to come for the delivery.

Ralston did well to get down the right and clip in an inviting cross to the edge of the box, but Henderson slashed at the ball and his effort zipped well off target.

Ismaila Soro looked as though he was tiring badly as the half wore on and he gave away a cheap free-kick and was also conceding possession far too often with sloppy passing.

In the 80th minute, it was game over for Rogic with Armstrong Oko-Flex coming on as the Hoops tried to inject some energy into their play.

A minute later, the home defenders were unconvincing yet again as a shot from Mullin was deflected by Laxalt onto the bar before flying off for a corner-kick.

Oko-Flex missed from practically under the crossbar in the 86th minute after Ralston had fired over a perfect ball from the right. The young Irishman, smack in front of goal, looked poised to knock it over the line, but somehow managed to miss the ball entirely. It was a horrible miss.

In that moment, Celtic’s miserable afternoon was summed up.

TEAM: Hazard; Ralston, Bitton, Duffy, Laxalt;  Frimpong, Soro, Turnbull, McGregor, Rogic (sub: Oko-Flex 80); Johnston (sub: Henderson 65).

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