Celtic 2 Livingston 1: Nakamura rescues Celtic in worrying welcome for Keane

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The Independent Football

Celtic had taken the lead in a poor first half thanks to a penalty from Shaun Maloney. The visitors equalised through Paul Dalglish, the son of the Parkhead hero, Kenny, and, having held things level for nearly 30 minutes, were three minutes from a draw when Nakamura struck.

Maybe some of Keane's new team-mates were edgy at his presence. Neil Lennon and Stilian Petrov, the two candidates who should probably be most nervous of being replaced in midfield, were especially off form.

Still, the win means Celtic maintain their four-point lead over Hearts at the top of the table ahead of their meeting on New Year's Day at Tynecastle. Hearts surged back to form after a mediocre month with an emphatic 5-0 home win over Falkirk yesterday.

A power cut delayed Celtic's kick-off for 40 minutes, leading to quips that with Keane's wages to consider, economies elsewhere are inevitable. The problem turned out to be a blown fuse, the first of the Irish midfielder's tenure in Glasgow but not, this time, his responsibility.

When Keane was introduced to the crowd before the match - he took a quick stroll to the centre circle, waved and walked off - he was described as "the biggest signing in Celtic's history". A hearty response from 57,000 fans suggested that the majority are delighted with their signing. They should be. If he is half the player of his peak, he will have twice the steeliness of any man in a Hoops shirt yesterday.

Most of them looked content to spend Boxing Day playing charades, or Roman statues. Only Nakamura and Maloney had any consistent urgency or zip about them.

Nakamura had the first chance, shooting wide a few seconds after Celtic had failed to win a penalty for a suspected handball. John Hartson then fluffed a shot, set up by Maloney, before Dalglish went close at the other end.

The Japanese international then won a free-kick, and curled it narrowly wide, before setting up Petrov, whose low shot was saved. A second curling free-kick from Nakamura found Hartson, who failed to make contact. He made amends, however, by supplying Maloney, whose shot was saved by the legs of a diving Roddy McKenzie in the visitors' goal.

Celtic took the lead when Maloney was brought down by Greg Strong, and he himself converted the subsequent spot-kick.

Approaching the hour, Dalglish was gifted the chance to equalise when Bobo Baldé tried to walk the ball out of defence. He tried to step around Robert Snodgrass, but lost possession, leaving Dalglish to nip in and finish.

However, Nakamura conjured his goal to secure the victory, jinking on to a Paul Telfer pass, then cutting in and finishing.

Goals: Maloney pen (39) 1-0; Dalglish (58) 1-1; Nakamura (87) 2-1.

Celtic (4-4-2): Boruc; Telfer, Baldé, McManus, Wallace (Virgo, 86); Nakamura, Lennon, Petrov, McGeady (McGlinchey, 74); Hartson, Maloney. Substitutes not used: Marshall (gk), Thompson, Wei Du, Camara, Pearson.

Livingston (4-4-2): McKenzie; Mackay, Pinxten, Strong, Tierney; Brittain, Vincze, Walker, (McPake, 83), Dair; Dalglish (Dorado, 88), Snodgrass (Martin, 83). Substitutes not used: Roy (gk), Tesevic, Adam, Boyd.

Referee: J Underhill.

Booked: Livingston Vincze.

Man of the match: Nakamura.

Attendance: 57,000.

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