January 28, 2023

Lily Abadah
Liel Abada had a goal disallowed in the second half while putting in a man-of-the-match performance

It would be wrong to say that Liel Abada is not sung at Celtic Park, but when the hymns begin, it is normally his attacking mates Kyogo Furuhashi and Jota who are serenaded.

Abada is 21 years old and his team needed his input against Livingston on Wednesday. What seemed like a breeze in the making turned into a bit of a struggle, a game where Celtic accelerated to a 2-0 lead with the promise of more turned into a frustrating affair.

Celtic rarely seemed to lose points, but they never came close to their best level either.

Credit Livingston for that. Their organization, their commitment, their faith kept them in the hunt. They simply refused to be beaten. David Martindale is a tart cookie. His teams don’t swoon in bigger stadiums and against more glamorous opponents.

This was not a repeat of Aberdeen on Saturday. Livingston had a lot more about them as a team. They scored, asked a few questions, denied Celtic any consolation in their game. It was all pretty awkward, kind of ugly.

The creative force behind both Celtic goals was Abada, a cross that was converted into his own net by Ayo Obileye and another swept away by Kyogo. Those were the defining moments. That’s five assists this season along with seven goals in the league, on top of last season’s 15 goals and 11 assists.

That is quite something for a young player at a demanding club in an unknown country.

He had a goal disallowed by the VAR, rightly and wrongly at the same time. He was offside, but his contribution deserved a goal. He later shot over Livingston’s target. He was Celtic’s key player on the night their nine-point lead at the top was restored.

On a number of occasions this season and last season it has been Abada who has opened doors for Celtic by scoring a 90th minute goal against Dundee United that made it 3-2, which quickly became 4-2 and the first two scored in a win over Motherwell scored the deadlock breaker in the 4-0 win over Rangers.

‘Postecoglou leads a Groundhog Day existence’

This is the strength of Ange Postecoglou’s team. There is almost always someone there to get the job done on difficult days.

At 2-0 this didn’t give the appearance of one of those sticky matches but it was. Celtic, of course, had masses of possession and mountains of goal attempts.

They also had a brave opponent who grew in confidence. We think of Celtic as a smooth running side, but in reality they win more wins through character than they obliterate opponents through quality.

You wonder what Postecoglou makes of all this. Most weeks his team is asked to break down tentative teams. It comes with the territory of having most of the best players in the country and huge wealth compared to almost everyone else. But he must sometimes feel like he’s living a Groundhog Day existence.

Over the weekend they had 33 shots on target from Aberdeen and 81% possession. They won it late in the day. In their previous match they had 22 shots on target from Ross County and 75% and again won by one goal. Last night they again really enjoyed possession and shots and in the end there was only one in it.

The winter months can be abrasive for them. Don’t mind the class, just count the points. Celtic are on a long winning streak and they look like a team that has almost forgotten how to lose league games.

Only St. Mirren managed to crack the code, with 20% and four shots off Celtic’s 19. There was something whimsical about that.

Things like that don’t happen often. Celtic, even playing under themselves, get the job done. Rangers keep praying for signs of weakness and lost points, but there is no sign.

This wasn’t pretty and the memory of it will be gone by the time someone gets to the parking lot, but none of that matters.

Three points, three points, three points. That’s the happy rhythm of the Postecoglou team as they go for two-in-a-row.


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