Livi on the edge

Over the last couple of seasons, Livingston has been a thorn in the side of Celtic, punching way above their weight every time they play the Hoops. And while the Bhoys in Green came away with a 3-2 victory on Saturday at Paradise, it was one of those where you see why Livi is one of those teams that are beatable, but are never really down until the end.

First things first: Nice of referee Gavin Duncan to ignore a hand foul for a penalty in the Livingston end, just to have Kris Ajer — sliding to block — get a hand foul in the Celtic box for a penalty a minute later. Complete bullspit, like four additional injury-time minutes, but at least Duncan has something to talk about when he goes to the Mason’s lodge after the game.

But never mind. A few minutes later the Bhoys equalized when Callum McGregor scores, and with the exception of a late goal by Livi — an absolute rocket from about 30 yards out at 78 minutes — the Bhoys essentially never looked back. What should have ended 3-1 instead ended 3-2.

Ryan Christie, who has been taking a brunt of undue criticism on social media, easily shut his critics up by improving his game up front, and ended up putting the ball into the back of the net a few minutes later. It seems that it doesn’t matter what set-up Celtic plays; whether it’s 3-5-2 or 4-4-2, there’s always a place for Christie in the lineup.

Albian Ajeti put away a goal early in the 2nd half to put the game away for Celtic on Saturday.

Albian Ajeti is also showing that the latest transfer window can easily be considered a success so far. Greg Taylor, who didn’t have a great game last week, had a fairly remarkable one this week. So it will be hard for those on social media who can never seem to find any thrill or happiness in victory to name a scapegoat for Celtic in this match.

It also seemed like a typical Celtic game: 71 percent possession, a clear advantage in passes completed (588-158, 86 percent for Celtic) and crosses (14-6), an obviously an advantage in scored goals (3-2, none of them gifted). All of that equals another victory and three more points.

And, for the moment, a spot at the top of the table.

As for McGregor, the man of the match: It’s hard to imagine where we’d be without him in the midfield. In addition to being a scoring threat, which he showed today, McGregor is a controlling force in the middle for the Hoops. In making each and every prudent and beneficial pass in the midfield, and being the go-to guy when players are double- and triple-teamed. More times than not, McGregor has gotten the Celts out of many a jam.

So tomorrow would be a good time for some “Sunshine on Leith” so Hibernian comes away with a victory, and only tomorrow “Mon the Hibs” are the words of the day.

Living(ston) on the edge

Credit where credit is due, part one: Livingston, a club which seems to have Celtic’s number for some metaphysical reason, lived up to their reputation as a home team that is very stingy about letting visitors score, and punched way above their weight on Wednesday to put Celtic in battle-stations mode for much of Wednesday’s game.

Credit where credit is due, part two: Celtic didn’t fold, remained focused, and kept coming after the Tony Macaronis shortly after going down 2-1 early in the 2nd half, constantly attacking the 10-0-0 Livingston formation for a better part of the second half before Tom Rogic finally got one to go in during injury time to equalise.

But before getting into some of the details, let’s backtrack a bit, going off-script for a moment, to talk about officiating over the last couple of games. It has been laughably deficient and blatantly awful.

At Pittodrie, Andrew Dallas borked most of the calls and non-calls in the Aberdeen game, which Celtic won anyway. Same at Kilmarnock with Kevin Clancy, who for the most part really has no business calling a game between teams of 8-year-olds, let alone games in the Premier League. But we still prevailed against Killie.

On Wednesday, Willie Collum may have looked at those games and said, “You think that’s bad? Hold my beer.”

Collum clearly was rendered temporarily blind when at least two Celts were clearly fouled in the penalty area during the course of the game, not to mention a variety of other fouls on the pitch. He also missed not one, but two handball fouls by Livingston on Odsonne Edouard’s free kick late in the game, to add to his usual all-over-the-map WTF method of refereeing.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: The greatest marketing ploy ever, in the entire history of advertising, is SpecSavers sponsoring the SFA referees.

And I know, I know: Jock Stein said, “If you’re good enough, the referee doesn’t matter.”

But even after Wednesday’s game, Big Jock is surely looking down from heaven and saying, “Damn, dude.” Or whatever the Scottish equivalent to that California phrase might be.

Meanwhile, back at the original point of the blog: Despite coming away with only one point — and thank goodness Glasgow’s other club made that “academic” (thanks, Chris Sutton!) by dropping their game against Hamilton — Wednesday’s game in the Italian Restaurant Arena was a completely watchable game; despite being a watchable game that we should have won by a score of 5-2 given the penalties we should have had.

OK, I’ll stop.

Wednedsay’s game was one of those grind-it-out affairs, where we lacked in a couple of areas — Fraser Forster uncharacteristically mishandled a ball that ended up as a fluke goal for Livingston early in the first half, and their familiarity with a quirky pitch augmented by defensive misplay on Celtic’s part led to their second — but we still came away with a draw. Because that’s what champions do.

A couple of bright spots in the game: As he often does when he’s fit and on the pitch, Nir Bitton makes a good case for being a starter for Celtic. His play yesterday was nothing short of solid, and I suspect — and I could be off here — is that we’ll be seeing more of him as the season progresses.

Also, after coming back from an injury where his mobility may have been hampered (possibly permanently), Jeremie Frimpong looked as fast and sharp as he was before professional hammerthrower Alan Power of Kilmarnock assaulted him earlier this season.

And Rogic: It appears that after a few games under his belt upon his return from his lengthy injury time-off, the Wizard of Oz is finally getting his touch back.

Add to the mix the return of players like Hatem Elhamed and Mohammed Elyounoussi — the latter who had a tough time on Wednesday (it happens) and the former who Neil Lennon wisely didn’t play on Wednesday on a plastic pitch — and the Road to Nine looks clear.

While close games may be exciting to watch, it would be nice for Celtic to maybe blow out St. Mirren on Saturday. Personally, I could stand a “boring” 7-0 victory by the Hoops from time to time . . .

One more thing: Kudos to Celtic TV once again. The power went out here in Felton shortly before the 2nd half started — Pacific Gas & Electric has rolling blackouts from time to time in their effort to keep their failing infrastructure from burning down all of California — and I missed the live broadcast of the half. But thanks to their available video of the 2nd half, I was able to watch once the power was restored.

All of which is to say, one of the best investments Celtic fans abroad can make is the monthly (or yearly) subscription to Celtic TV. And while he’s no Sutton, Tom Boyd’s insights — both the significant and the quirky — are top-notch; especially the Monty Python references.

Oh, and before I forget, the Sandman’s ratings are here.

’67 in the Heat of Felton appears on a regular Tuesday/Thursday schedule, often with game observations following Celtic matches.