Sutton quickens Celtic's pulse amid the bruises

Livingston 2 - Celtic 4
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The Independent Online

Celtic ensured there was no hangover from their Champions' League setback in midweek but there were plenty of bruises before they tamed a rugged Livingston side at Almondavale Stadium yesterday.

Celtic ensured there was no hangover from their Champions' League setback in midweek but there were plenty of bruises before they tamed a rugged Livingston side at Almondavale Stadium yesterday.

The disappointment of Shakhtar Donetsk was dispelled by a ruthless opening 32 minutes when Celtic swept in four goals from Stilian Petrov, Henri Camara, John Hartson and Chris Sutton to remain unbeaten in the Scottish Premier League.

But Martin O'Neill is nursing a lengthy injury list. Stephen McManus was carried off with a nasty leg injury, while Camara limped off before half-time and Stan Varga stayed in the dressing-room at the interval. Even Hartson could not avoid damage, requiring stitches as Celtic limped home. Burton O'Brien scored on either side of half-time to drag Livingston back into what became a fractious contest by the end.

"It was an aggressive Livingston side," O'Neill said. "I can forgive my team for the hiccup of losing a couple of goals because we were struggling to get enough men to finish."

It took just two minutes for the cobwebs of Donetsk to be swept away by Petrov. The midfielder cleverly backheeled the ball into Sutton's path and took the return pass before sliding a wonderful shot past Roddy McKenzie from 14 yards. Just 11 minutes later, Celtic doubled their lead. Camara's pace allowed him to beat the offside trap to gather Hartson's pass and place a measured right-foot shot past the goalkeeper.

Celtic's third came swiftly. Again Camara was the creator, surging past Emmanuel Dorado and clipping a low cross for Hartson to sidefoot past McKenzie. But the best of the lot was Sutton's just after the half hour. Celtic threaded the ball from one side to the otherbefore Sutton's backheel saw him exchange passes with Hartson and drill a low shot beyond McKenzie.

O'Brien conjured up a piece of magic of his own in stoppage time, dancing past tackles to fire a low shot past David Marshall and then eclipsed that with a remarkable solo effort in the 53rd minute that ended with a 20-yard shot past Marshall.

Goals: Petrov (2) 0-1; Camara (14) 0-2; Hartson (19) 0-3; Sutton (32) 0-4; O'Brien (45) 1-4; O'Brien (53) 2-4.

Livingston (4-4-2): McKenzie; McNamee, Dorado, Rubio, Stanic (Libbra, 86); McLaughlin, Easton, Lovell, O'Brien; Snodgrass (Brittain, 46), Hamilton (Lilley 76). Substitutes not used: Meldrum (gk), McMenamin, Snowdon, Bahoken.

Celtic (4-4-2): Marshall; McNamara, Varga (Lambert, 46), Balde, McManus (Pearson, 26); Petrov, Lennon, Sutton, Wallace; Hartson, Camara (Juninho, 36). Substitutes not used: Hedman (gk), Sylla, Beattie, McGeady.

Referee: A Freeland.

Booked: Livingston: Stanic, Rubio, Dorado, Easton, Brittain. Celtic: Hartson, Lennon, Lambert, Pearson.

Man of the match: Sutton (Celtic).

Attendance: 7,695.

* Rangers were held to a 1-1 draw against Dundee United at Ibrox. Nacho Novo gave Rangers a 68th-minute lead but Barry Robson stunned the 46,796 home crowd when he swept home a free-kick for United in the final minute.

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