Why Celtic didn't push the centre-backs up front in pursuit of Livingston winner

A weekend that started with Celtic hopes of topping the Premiership table for the first time in over a year ended with them dropping further behind league leaders Rangers.
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou consoles Giorgos Giakoumakis after his penalty miss (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou consoles Giorgos Giakoumakis after his penalty miss (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou consoles Giorgos Giakoumakis after his penalty miss (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

The failure to overcome a strong defensive display from Livingston at Celtic Park on Saturday ensured that Ange Postecoglou's men passed up the opportunity to leapfrog their rivals, even if only for 24 hours.

The solitary point gained could only narrow the gap until Steven Gerrard's defending champions blasted themselves into a four-point advantage in the title race with Sunday's 6-1 thrashing of 10-man Motherwell at Fir Park.

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A double dunt for Celtic, who had managed to claw back some of the early season damage with a run of four consecutive victories during a period where Rangers had dropped points.

They will reflect on Saturday's stalemate as a missed opportunity, particularly when factoring in the 90th minute penalty miss from Giorgos Giakoumakis, whose tame effort was held by Livingston goalkeeper Max Stryjek after a slap on the back of the head of Kyogo Furuhashi in the penalty box led to a red card for defender Ayo Obileye and the award of a spot kick.

“It’s hugely frustrating," admitted Celtic defender Cameron Carter-Vickers. "It’s difficult to play against a team who sit behind the ball for 90 minutes and you have to break them down.

“Fair play to them. They came with a plan, they stuck to it all the way through and they were really well organised. You have you give them their props.

“But it’s up to us to break them down and it’s disappointing that we weren’t able to do that. We had a lot of the ball, we kept trying and trying, we kept playing until the end, but we just couldn’t get the break. It’s difficult when the emphasis is all on you, when only one team is trying to build a tempo and the momentum.

“Sometimes in a game like this one you need something to go your way and it felt like it had when we got the decision right at the end. But everyone misses penalties, so there’s no blame there. They go in or they don’t and this time it didn’t."

For some managers, the pursuit of a late goal would prompt the centre-halves to be pushed forward and long balls fired into the box, but Postecoglou resisted such temptation as the Celtic head coach persevered with the systematic approach that has become the immovable bedrock of his tenure since his summer appointment.

“The way we play is the way we believe will bring us the most success and the players are all right behind that," Carter-Vickers added.

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“That’s what we want to do, that’s what we try to do and that’s what we’ll keep doing.

“It was a chance to go top of the league and that’s obviously where we want to be, but it’s only the end of October and leagues aren’t won at this time of the season.

“There’s plenty of time and I believe if we stick to our principles we’ll get there.

“I’m feeling good, I’m enjoying it here. It’s all about keep on improving, keeping doing what the manager wants us to do."

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