Sutton ensures fair passage to France

Livingston 0 Celtic 2
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The Independent Football

Celtic refused to be distracted by their Champions' League date with destiny in France on Wednesday and instead kept their eye on the domestic prize at Almondvale Stadium yesterday, as they negotiated a way past Livingston.

The encounter with Lyon may consume everyone's interest, but Martin O'Neill's side had no intention of following in the footsteps of Rangers, who dropped points here after their recent meeting with Manchester United. Second-half goals from Chris Sutton and Alan Thompson secured a 14th victory in 15 Premier League games for the leaders.

Thompson will be missing in Lyon - as Celtic try to secure a point from their final game to progress - because of suspension, but O'Neill could also be without captain Jackie McNamara, who went off with a dislocated shoulder in the final minutes.

"Jackie's performance today epitomised his season," said O'Neill. "He was brilliant and he will be a big loss in Lyon, as will Thompson."

The former Aston Villa player, however, believes his colleagues can qualify without him. "This was not a brilliant performance but it was good workout for Lyon, and hopefully we can get a result there," he said.

Though Celtic were held by Livingston in the first half they could have been ahead in the opening 10 minutes, when Henrik Larsson stabbed the ball past goalkeeper Roddy McKenzie, only for David McNamee to clear off the line. The striker then curled a sublime, disguised shot just inches high of the target.

However, Livingston's fluent play in midfield tightened up the contest and they came closest to breaking the deadlock when Jamie McAllister's free-kick was touched over by Magnus Hedman.

The reprieve was celebrated just three minutes into the second half, when Sutton scored his 16th of the season. The tall striker, with his back to goal, gathered Thompson's pass and held off Oscar Rubio before hooking a left-foot shot beyond McKenzie.

The keeper denied Larsson again just before the hour, but Livingston were threatening to conjure up an equaliser - Fernando Pasquinelli's acrobatic shot landing on top of the net - when Thompson sealed the points for Celtic in the 84th minute. Stilian Petrov's short corner was crossed in by Neil Lennon, but Rubio's clearing header landed at the feet of Thompson, who whipped a fierce volley past McKenzie.

Livingston 0 Celtic 2
Sutton 48, Thompson 84

Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 9,523