Greg Taylor scored on his 100th Celtic appearance as they eased to a 3-0 victory at Livingston to restore their four-point lead in the Scottish Premiership title race.
Kyogo Furuhashi lashed in at Jack Hamilton’s near post after being found by Taylor early in the game, and the left-back fired through the stand-in goalkeeper’s legs after the break.
Giorgos Giakoumakis missed a late penalty for the visitors after a VAR review of Andrew Shinnie’s handball, before fellow substitute Jota did score Celtic’s third.
It sends the Hoops back four points clear of Rangers in the Scottish Premiership title race while Livingston remain eighth.
Celtic ease to victory
The big pre-match team news was that 28-year-old Hamilton, signed from Morton in August, was in for his Livingston debut following an injury to Shamal George with Jackson Longridge and James Penrice coming back into the side.
Ange Postecoglou reshuffled again for what is traditionally a tough fixture for Celtic.
Anthony Ralston, Aaron Mooy and James Forrest came into the side with Josip Juranovic, Liel Abada and Giakoumakis dropping to the bench.
Celtic kept the ball from kick-off but it was only after Livi striker Joel Nouble’s effort from a Stephen Kelly free-kick was easily saved by Hoops ‘keeper Joe Hart that they took the lead.
Taylor had plenty of time to slide in Furuhashi, who took a touch and from eight yards thrashed the ball high past Hamilton at his near post.
Celtic retained their grip on the game with lone-striker Nouble cutting an isolated figure for the Lions.
Furuhashi looked offside when he went through on goal again in the 22nd minute but stretching under pressure from Livingston defender Jack Fitzwater he knocked the ball over the bar.
Green and white jerseys kept flooding forward and Forrest and Mooy both missed the target by inches with drives from the edge of the box.
Hamilton parried a powerful long-distance drive from Taylor at the start of the second half but when he got another chance minutes later, after Mooy’s shot had been blocked, the Scotland defender returned a thunderbolt which fizzed through the legs of the Livi ‘keeper.
On the hour mark, Hamilton carelessly misplaced a pass to Forrest but prevented the Scotland winger grabbing a third goal for the Parkhead side, who by then were completely in charge.
David Turnbull and Abada replaced Matt O’Riley and Forrest before Jota, Oliver Abildgaard and Giakoumakis came on for Sead Haksabanovic, Reo Hatate and Furuhashi.
There was a VAR check when Jota’s cross hit the hands of Livi substitute Andrew Shinnie and referee Willie Collum pointed to the spot after checking the monitor, but Giakoumakis struck the outside of the post with the spot-kick.
But minutes later Jota converted a Turnbull cross to add the third.
What the managers said
Livingston boss David Martindale was disappointed with some poor defending:
“We gave away very soft goals. The third one, we’re a bit naive. The second one, I’m not going to stand here and tell lies, the ‘keeper’s got to save it. The first one, Kyogo’s done us with a bit of movement but our ‘keeper’s positioning is probably far too aggressive.
“I can’t really remember Celtic peppering the goal too much. I think we gave away very poor goals.
“I don’t think we did enough in the game, so fair play to Celtic.”
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou was delighted with his team’s disciplined display:
“It was a really strong performance. They make it really difficult with the way they play and obviously the surface too.
“The early goals always help but our performance beyond that was more important. We were well on top and only had a couple of attempts at goal against us.
“Taylor’s going well. He’s improving all the time. He comes in every day and wants to be the best he can be. He’s one of the few whose stayed on since I came in and he’s embraced what we want to do.
“The instructions are, if he’s around the goal, have a shot. Our full-backs sometimes find themselves in those kind of situations.”
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