Hartson seals victory

Livingston 0 Celtic 2
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The Independent Football

All roads continue to lead to Hampden for Celtic, as they set up a CIS Insurance Cup semi-final encounter with Rangers at the national stadium by over overcoming gritty Livingston last night.

Headers from Bobo Balde and John Hartson at Almondvale Stadium ensured the holders' progress towards a repeat of last season's torrid meeting there with their Old Firm rivals en route to a cherished Treble.

The Celtic manager, Martin O'Neill, sprinkled his side with four changes, all in midfield, allowing Steve Guppy a rare outing and the former Coventry City winger cut inside after two minutes and struck the post. The rebound was hacked away by Didier Santini before Hartson could pounce.

Livingston's rise from Third Division status six years ago to the fairytale this season of third place in the Scottish Premier League means that not only is Europe a possibility, but they have long since cast off any inferiority complex.

David Bingham almost gave the home fans the goal they craved, forcing Robert Douglas to parry his shot and when David Fernandez pounced on the rebound, Bobo Balde rescued Celtic by clearing the effort off the line.

At the other end Lubomir Moravcik played a delightful one-two with Chris Sutton after 20 minutes. His shot was pushed onto the post by Nick Culkin before the goalkeeper touched Stilian Petrov's volley over the bar.

Celtic broke the stalemate on 37 minutes after Moravcik delivered a fine free-kick, which was flicked on by Sutton and Balde powered a header beyond Culkin.

Livingston thought they had equalised eight minutes into the second half when Barry Wilson hounded Joos Valgaeren and Douglas into confusion as they tried to mop up a long ball. The winger pounced on the loose ball and tried to find the net from an acute angle, but Balde recovered to head the ball clear.

Sutton twice had chances to doubles Celtic's lead, failing to convert from distance first and missing from close in the second time. Hartson killed off the tie five minutes before the end, heading in from Guppy's corner.

Livingston (4-3-3): Culkin; Brinquin, Andrews, Rubio, Santini; Quino, Toure-Maman, Bingham (Tosh, 56); Wilson, Fernandez (Lowndes, 63), Xausa (Aurellio, 70). Substitutes not used: McEwan (gk), Caputo.

Celtic (3-5-2): Douglas; Mjallby, Balde, Valgaeren; Sylla, McNamara, Petrov, Moravcik(Lennon, 68), Guppy; Sutton, Hartson. Substitutes not used: Gould (gk), Larsson, Petta, Tebily, .

Referee: K Clark.