LIVINGSTON 0 CELTIC 3
CENTURIAN Celt Greg Taylor scored his second goal in eight days as the reluctant hero made certain Livingston’s plastic pitch was not transformed into a giant banana skin this afternoon.
The consistent left-back claimed his first league strike in three years when he fired in the winner against Hearts at Tynecastle last weekend.
And Taylor, celebrating his 100th appearance for the Hoops, eased the tension on this occasion with a vicious piledriver from 25 yards to make it 2-0 in the 53rd minute after Kyogo Furuhashi had got the opener early in the first-half.
Comeback Bhoy Filipe Jota hit a third near the end only eight minutes after making his first outing in six games.
WALLOP…Kyogo Furuhashi fires a rasping left-foot drive into the Livingston net for the opening goal despite the attempt by Ayo Obileye to block his effort.
The visitors could even afford the luxury of a missed penalty-kick when Giorgos Giakoumakis squandered the champions’ first spot-kick award of the season.
The Greek rolled the ball against the outside the post and past for a goal-kick in the 83rd minute to prove that lightning can strike twice. The frontman also passed up a penalty-kick against the same side a year ago.
At least, on that occasion the keeper was required to make a save. This time around Giakoumakis didn’t even get the ball between the posts. It’s unlikely he will ever be given the opportunity to take a spot-kick against the West Lothian club again during his Celtic career.
The award was given after Andrew Shinnie was adjudged to have handled a left-wing cross from Jota. Referee Willie Collum was instructed to look at the touchline monitor and came back to point to the spot. After all that, Giakoumakis tamely hit the woodwork.
As ever against stubborn opponents, Postecoglou’s men had to battle for every inch of possession and every yard of pitch.
The win restores the four-point advantage over their nearest challengers.
The conditions were a bit moist at the kick-off as showers tumbled down in West Lothian and it was Celtic who were singing in the rain in the ninth minute when Kyogo sizzled in the breakthrough goal.
JOY BHOYS…Kyogo Furuhashi and Sead Haksabanovic celebrate the Japanese striker’s superb goal.
The hitman got the nod from Postecoglou to start with Giakoumakis among the stand-by squad despite the fact the Greek was on the mark against Shakhtar Donetesk in midweek while the Japanese forward fired blanks.
Kyogo missed a clear-cut opportunity against the Ukrainians, but Livi were not spared when he took aim after some neat lead-up play from Anthony Ralston and Taylor.
The left-back fed the ball through with an inch-perfect pass and Kyogo took it on the run before lashing a 12-yard angled drive between keeper Jack Hamilton and his near post as it tore a path into the roof of the net.
That was more like the Kyogo we all know and love whose confidence appears to have taken a knock in recent weeks.
At the other end of the pitch, Cameron Carter-Vickers and the hosts’ battering-ram centre-forward Jo Nouble were getting acquainted as they clattered into each other with unremitting grit.
Match offical Collum saw fit to book the Parkhead stand-in skipper after he was adjudged to have held back the Livi powerhouse.
NUMBER ONE…Kyogo Furuhashi signals Celtic’s breakthrough strike.
In the 20th minute, Ralston came close to doubling the visitors’ advantage when he seized onto a rebound from a Matt O’Riley drive, but the defender’s effort went wide of the upright.
Sunshine replaced the rain as the weather conditions took a decided upside and it almost coincided with the Hoops getting a second in the 26th minute when Aaron Mooy and James Forrest worked a neat one-two on the edge of the box.
The winger whipped in a cunning low effort that had Hamilton scrambling, but, unfortunately, just edged past the left-hand post.
In the 36th minute, Reo Hatate and Taylor combined to set up Mooy. He took a touch before hammering the ball past the stranded Hamilton, but it also zipped off target.
There had been rousing applause throughout the stadium only a moment or two beforehand when the Australian World Cup midfielder accidentally collided with Collum. The whistler went down in a heap, but bounced back to his feet and, thankfully, kept his cards in his pocket.
Taylor served notice of what was to come when he walloped in a thunderous drive two minutes after the restart that was beaten away by Hamilton.
GOAL-DEN CENTURIAN…Greg Taylor strikes gold for the second successive week.
WELCOME BACK…Filipe Jota marks his return with the third goal near the end.
But the latest Ton-Up Bhoy would not be denied and in the 53rd minute he latched onto a Mooy rebound to first-time a drive through a ruck of players as the ball arrowed straight through the legs of the startled keeper.
In the 67th minute, Postecoglou freshened up the team as he sent on Liel Abada and David Turnbull for Forrest and O’Riley and 11 minutes from the end Giakoumakis, Jota and Oliver Abildgaard came on for Kyogo, Haksabanovic and Hatate to get some game time.
The third and final goal arrived in the 87th minute and was initiated by a good throw from keeper Joe Hart who had been a virtual spectator for more of the game.
He sent a clearance to Abada who picked out the clever run of Turnbull who nursed the ball until he released a pass into the tracks of Jota who didn’t break stride as he rattled a close-range drive into the net.
It was the perfect end to a perfect day at the Tony Macaroni Arena. Hoodoo? What hoodoo?
TEAM: Hart; Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Jenz, Taylor; Mooy, O’Riley (sub: Turnbull 67), Hatate (sub: Abildgaard 79), Forrest (sub: Abada 67), Kyogo (sub: Giakoumakis 79), Haksabanovic (sub: Jota 87).