Celtic 3-1 Livingston: Hoops start eight-in-a-row bid with convincing win

Odsonne Edouard celebrates scoring Celtic's second of the afternoon. Picture: SNS Group
Odsonne Edouard celebrates scoring Celtic's second of the afternoon. Picture: SNS Group
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Even by pyrotechnical standards, there was an unexpectedly loud crackle to the fireworks that greeted club icon Danny McGrain tugging open the league flag at Celtic Park.

The snap and pop that followed as Brendan Rodgers’ side embarked on their bid bring an eighth consecutive championship to Glasgow’s east end was also of a zinging variety beyond what might have been the case in so one-sided a contest.

The Ladbrokes Premiership flag is unfurled by Danny McGrain after Celtic's title win last season. Picture: SNS Group

The Ladbrokes Premiership flag is unfurled by Danny McGrain after Celtic's title win last season. Picture: SNS Group

There was no sense of Celtic being in any way distracted or playing within themselves as a consequence of the far more diverting encounter that awaits on Wednesday when AEK Athens coming calling for the Champions League third round qualifier. Rodgers spoke afterwards of the “intensity” exhibited, with no sense that Celtic may tire of beating up the little guy in the domestic domain.

Kenny Miller would have cursed that fact. As his team were snapped by Celtic, one pop to be heard could have been the bubble bursting that he might have ensconced himself over combining playing duties with his first management role.

The West Lothian club won’t stand or fall through what befalls them against Celtic.

However, their inability to offer even a germ of resistance does nothing to dispel the impression the club have been elevated above their station following scarcelessly credible back-to-back promotions.

The visitors had no answer to Tom Rogic who galloped, pirouetted and strutted with all the grace and precision of a dressage champion. The Australian even claimed himself that rarest of rewards in the form of a headed goal to see Celtic off and running. He did so courtesy of a neat cross flipped over the from the left by Johnny Hayes, making his first appearance since he suffered a leg break at Dens Park on Boxing day.

Rogic tapped the top off his head as he wheeled away in celebration of his looping effort over Liam Kelly in eight minutes. Livingston spent much of the the afternoon scratching theirs as to how to quell his attacking effervescence.

“He was excellent,” Rodgers said of the playmaker who is one of the club’s late returnees following participation in the World Cup finals.

“That has been building up for the last two or three weeks. He finds good space, creates and scores goals. We looked dangerous in the final third, our speed of play was excellent especially on the back of a Champions League game.

“Our intensity was very good, Tom was one of a number of great performances.”

Celtic regularly swamped their opponents in that final third and Rogic’s central role in doing so was key to their second of the afternoon approaching the half hour.

Its genesis was a Livingston corner cleared by Jozo Simunovic. James Forrest then nodded it into the path of Rogic who sprinted across the halfway line as Celtic found themselves with four players on three.

He slipped it out to Olivier Ntcham who swept it across the face of the box where Odsonne Edouard was on hand to tap in.

An array of efforts that brought goalline clearances and last-gasp blocks were fashioned before and after they brought their tally to three goals for the afternoon after Declan Gallagher was adjudged to have barged Callum McGregor over in the 50th minute.

Ntcham converted before in stoppage time sustaining a knock in the lead-up to Livingston earning a consolation, Scott Robinson darting in to the box to meet a free-kick ahead of Craig Gordon and flip it over the keeper before stroking it in to the empty net.

The goal came a quarter of an hour after Miller had withdrawn himself from the fray, his one notable contribution before that a booking that followed the 38-year-old catching Mikael Lustig with a flying elbow at the end of the first period. His only other role across the afternoon was to give the Celtic support a focus for nasty - and sectarian, by the definition of “Orange” in terms that Order - barracking.

The Livingston player/manager was not disheartened by events, however.

“You’ll see teams come here and, as in the past, they’ll go two or three nil down and just chuck it. Three can quickly become six,” he said.

“But I thought the lads stuck to the task very well, fought to the end, gave everything and left it all on the pitch. I’m really proud of them for how they stuck to the task.

“It’s in this team, that work ethic, that togetherness. It’s just trying to harness it and build on it.

“I’d said in the build up that by 5pm today the lads would’ve been left in no doubt over what this league’s about and what the step up is.

“That’s the best team we’re going to play, at their own home and when they are unfurling the flag.

“It was a real test and we will have learned a lot from today. I certainly did. Everything I believed was in this team is in it. I’m really proud.”