Abada pivotal, fresh VAR nonsense; 3 things we learned as Celtic beat Livingston

By John McGinley

December 21, 2022

Celtic have again moved nine points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership table after beating Livingston 2-1 at Celtic Park this evening.

An Ayo Obileye own goal and a Kyogo Furuhashi finish had the Bhoys 2-0 up before a quick reply from Nicky Devlin at the other end of the pitch. Celtic dominated vast swathes of the game and deserved the victory, despite not going on to add to their advantage in the second half.

What were the big talking points of the encounter? Here are three of ours after another important three points…

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Liel Abada at the centre of it all

After a fine showing off the bench against Aberdeen at the weekend, Abada was given a big opportunity to impress in the starting line-up and did so across his 90 minutes on the pitch.

It was his cross that caused enough chaos in the Livingston defence for Obileye to turn home for an OG. Then, his well-timed run sprung the Livingston defence again, with his square ball fired home by Kyogo. The 21-year-old Israeli winger was at it again in the second half too, getting the ball in the back of the net before his goal was ruled offside after a bizarre, lengthy VAR check.

It bodes well that he’s finding form again during this busy period and he’ll be good value to play another prominent role at the weekend when St Johnstone come to town.

VAR continues to look bizarre in Celtic matches

Celtic really seem to have drawn the ‘Chaotic VAR’ card from the Scottish football deck since it was introduced, with tonight throwing up further incidents that are likely to be much-talked about.

First, there was an apparent Devlin handball in the Celtic box from a fierce Reo Hatate shot, which was not even offered to referee Euan Anderson for sideline review.

Then, a long VAR check overturned an Abada goal – who was judged to have been ruled offside. He was in an offside position when the ball was played forward but the defender went to head the ball and miscued it, allowing Abada the advantage to finish.

The check took far too long, with the referee also going to the sideline to apparently determine whether the defender was deliberately playing the ball or not. It’s very rare for referees to review offside decisions. This was not a good advert for the Scottish FA’s deployment of the technology with fans and players in the ground left perplexed.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Anthony Ralston injury far from ideal

With Alistair Johnston unable to play until January and Josip Juranovic still recovering from the World Cup, an injury suffered by Ralston was not what we wanted to see tonight.

He went off in the second half after a physical tussle with Livingston that required treatment from the physio on multiple occasions.

We obviously don’t know the extent of his injury but missing at least one of the upcoming matches would be no surprise, which might mean Greg Taylor fills in on the right flank longer than his switch from left-back this evening.

In other news, “That’s my frustration”; Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou wants refereeing change.