CELTIC were held to a 0-0 draw at Parkhead by Livingston this afternoon – to hand Rangers the chance to pull 23 points clear in the Premiership.
With 14 players out – centre half Christopher Jullien tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday and 13 of his team mates were forced to self-isolate – the home team once again struggled.
Having drawn with Hibernian at home on Monday night, their slim chances of catching their city rivals in the league table suffered another blow.
Steven Gerrard’s men, who take on Motherwell at Fir Park tomorrow now have the chance, to pull further ahead.
Nir Bitton returned from the suspension that he picked up against Rangers at Ibrox at the end of last month and should theoretically have strengthened the Celtic defence. But the hosts’ backline looked far from assured as the visitors applied sustained early pressure.
For all their possession and territorial advantage, though, Livingston were unable to trouble goalkeeper Conor Hazard. Celtic looked far likelier to score whenever they got near their opponents’ final third. Jeremie Frimpong, playing on the right wing to accommodate Anthony Ralson at right back, tested Max Stryjek after cutting inside.
Ralston, playing in his first game since March last year, when he was loan at St Johnstone and his first game for Celtic since the previous August, picked up the first booking of the match in the first half when he brought down Craig Sibbald with a mistimed challenge as his opponent advanced towards his goal. Josh Mullin curled the free-kick just wide.
Livingston had two opportunities to open the scoring in the space of as many minutes in the second-half. Scott Robinson went agonisingly close to finding the net with a long-range effort and then Scott Pittman failed to connect with a Mullin delivery despite having time and space.
Efe Ambrose, the former Celtic player, managed to shake off his marker and get on the end of Mullin corner in the 67th minute and direct a header towards goal. But the Livingston centre half’s powerful header sailed over the crossbar.
Gavin Strachan, taking the team once again in the absence of both Lennon and assistant manager John Kennedy, took off Mikey Johnston and put on Ewan Henderson. But the home team continued to struggle.
Tom Rogic played, with Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths both sidelined, up front, out of position up front and worked hard. But the playmaker received limited service and didn’t trouble Stryjek. He was replaced by Armtrong Oko-Flex with 10 minutes remaining.
David Martindale’s men were the better team in the second-half. Mullin hit the crossbar and Nicky Devlin went close in the closing stages of the encounter. Their first win at Parkhead in their hstory wouldn’t have flattered the side from West Lothian
That said, Oko-Flex nearly snatched a late winner when he came within inches of getting on the end of a Ralston cross in front of the Livingston goal.