With Celtic due at Livingston on Sunday. St Anthony takes a look back a fine Celtic performance at Almondvale from 2005.
1 October 2005 Livingston 0-5 Celtic Attendance: 9,115
When Celtic visited Almondvale in October 2005, the new Celtic manager, Gordon Strachan, was under a bit of pressure. Crashing out of the Champions League to Artmedia Bratislava, and a mediocre start to the league season, had seen a great deal of strain placed on top of Strachan and his Celtic team. Not only was a win required on the day but Strachan would have been hoping for a convincing win to kick start his season.
A large Celtic support turned out at Almondvale, partly due to the reason that the game was due at 3pm on a Saturday with no live TV coverage, something of a novelty which had not happened in a Celtic away fixture for some considerable time. Strachan had gambled on playing with three orthodox strikers in Macej Zurawski, Craig Beattie, and Chris Sutton so he was clearly looking for an emphatic victory. As it happened, Sutton was employed in a midfield role due to Neil Lennon’s absence with John Hartson was surprisingly left on the bench.
Celtic took the initiative from the start and Roddy McKenzie, the Livingston goalkeeper, kept his team in the game for 35 minutes with some fine saves before Celtic made the breakthrough. From their fifth corner of the game, Sutton cleverly headed a Shaun Maloney set piece on to Stephen McManus, and the young Celtic centre back buried the opportunity.
Maloney was the Celtic player who caught the eye most on the first half and he extended Celtic’s lead just before half time. After clever link up play, Shaun twisted and turned to create space to fire a low shot into the net, with half time fast approaching. Celtic fans anticipated more goals in the second half and they were not to be disappointed. In 51 minutes, left back, Mo Camara, sent over an excellent cross for Zurawski to score with a forceful header and nine minutes later, the impressive Sutton scored with a blistering shot after Maloney’s free kick had rebounded from the Livingston wall.
Celtic supporters were in full voice and Craig Beattie rounded off the scoring at 5-0 when Maloney released Camara down the left wing for his cross to be parried by McKenzie for Beattie to score a simple goal. Celtic brought on John Hartson and Didier Agathe as subs which only served to emphasise the massive gap between the teams on the day.
This was the result and performance that Gordon Strachan badly needed. Some of his new signings had recently received some criticism but on the day they had been excellent. Paul Telfer and Camara, had been excellent attacking full backs, Macej Zurawski had scored, but it was Shunske Nakamura with his delightful touches, passing, and movement who looked most impressive of the latest Celtic recruits. New goalkeeper, Artur Boruc, who was fast becoming a fans’ favourite, had been a virtual passenger on the day. An added bonus for Strachan was that the young players he had given opportunities to, Maloney, McManus, and Beattie, had not only played well but all three had scored fine goals and now fully merited retaining their place in the team.
As it happened Strachan’s Celts went on an excellent run of form and only lost one more league game before clinching the title by beating Hearts at Parkhead in early April 2006. Ange Postecoglou will be hoping for a similar result against Livingston on Sunday which will give some momentum to his own team’s league title bid in this current campaign.