Celtic returned to winning ways in the league, as they defeated Livingston 2-0 at home to secure their first win in three domestic games.

With the return of both the Green Brigade and the Bhoys ultras groups, the stadium was in fine voice for the visit of David Martindale’s men to Glasgow. In truth, it was a game that Celtic dominated, but that superiority took until the second half to show in the scoresheet regarding goalmouth action. Both Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda had massive chances to open the scoring in the opening half, but their chances did not find the back of the net, with Paulo Bernardo coming close too.

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Whatever the manager said at half-time resonated with the players, as within 30 seconds of the restart Celtic had the ball in the back of the net through Kyogo, after great wing play from man of the match Luis Palma. Their lead would be doubled just five minutes later, as Palma again was the provider – this time from a corner kick – as his perfectly weighted cross into Livingston’s box was back-headed by Liam Scales, who scored his first goal in nearly two years for the club. Despite a barrage of attacks after this early flurry, the game would finish 2-0, as Brendan Rodgers elected to make changes to give other players some game-time in the match.

Speaking of changes, the manager made a few from the team that were defeated 2-0 by Hearts last Saturday. David Turnbull had to settle for a bench place, as Bernardo made his first league start since November, whilst Maeda returned to the starting line-up in place of Mikey Johnston. Kyogo led the line in favour of Oh, meanwhile, the defensive pairing of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Scales continued, with no space on the bench for Gustaf Lagierbielke or Maik Nawrocki yet again.

Using both StatsBomb and Wyscout, The Celtic Way dissects yesterday’s match to bring you the best data and graphics from a much-needed win in the Scottish Premiership.

The match

As shown above, on the xG race chart, it was all one-way sailing in this match concerning attacking play. Usually, two lines are going along the graphic alongside each other, but thanks to Livingston’s failure to muster a single opportunity only Celtic are present. Because of this, the hosts had a massive 99 per cent chance of winning this match, with the other per cent accounting for a draw if Celtic did not take their chances. In the eyes of xG, Livingston had statistically zero chance of winning this game.

As mentioned previously, the game struggled to get going properly until after the restart, but it did not take long for the home side to make their pressure pay off.

The ball is quickly distributed to Palma on the wing, his favourite position to take up. What was interesting about this opening still is the fact that the winger was instructing Greg Taylor – his left-back – to make a decoy run, since he could sense the Livingston double-team coming into play. He knows that if one of them peeled off of him to track Taylor, he would have the advantage in a one-on-one situation against any of the opposition players, given his quality in those situations.

The next still was from a few seconds later, where it was clear that BOTH of the opposition’s defenders had taken the bait that Taylor had constructed. Look at Jamie Brandon next to Palma, as he desperately tried to catch up to the winger after being tricked by the left-back. By then, however, it was too late, as Palma was in pole position to cause trouble. One could not blame Kyogo for feeling a bit down considering his recent goal drought but look at his position here. Already, he was looking for an avenue to score, on the move to make sure he was available if Palma could find him. We all know what happened next…

With time and space to deliver into the box, Palma whipped a delivery into the opposition’s area. Whether it was a cross or a shot is another matter, but the height and movement of the ball made it too tempting to resist for Kyogo. The ball may or may not have been going in, but the striker was not hanging around to find out and stabbed it home past Jack Hamilton in the Livingston goals.

By far the biggest chance in terms of xG in the game, Kyogo’s original chance generated 0.77, which then rose to 0.99 following the strike leaving his boot. Regardless, the striker needed this goal, and Palma was the architect.

Speaking of Palma, he set up Celtic’s second of the afternoon, too. Leading up to his second goal contribution of the afternoon, the winger’s deliveries had been admittedly hit-and-miss, with many either hitting the first man or going well wide. However, this delivery was bang on the money, even by the Honduran’s high standards.

To score a corner kick against a tall and imposing team such as Livingston is an achievement, given the physical profile of the players they possess, especially at the back. The ball into the box from Palma had to be a good one, and it was, as it found Scales in the middle of the opposition’s area. Without having much time to think, the defender nods it backwards into the corner of Hamilton’s net exquisitely, doubling the champions’ lead on the day. 0.09 to 0.53 in respective xG then PSxG, Scales’ first goal of the season was not an easy one to direct goalwards, but he made it look that way.

Despite some good chances concerning xG coming to the likes of Carter-Vickers (0.10), Maeda (0.13), Matt O’Riley (0.21) and Oh Hyeon-gyu (0.15), the game’s scoring would conclude after Scales’ header in the 51st minute.

Palma the provider

With two assists in five minutes, Palma was easily the man of the match for the afternoon. Another two goal contributions to add to his growing portfolio this season, the winger was also Celtic’s top performer concerning key passes in the game, as shown above. He had four in the match, two more than O’Riley, Scales and Callum McGregor, who all had two on the day. Indeed, Palma’s four key passes had a combined xG of 0.69, which was by far the highest total in this particular metric.

Trying desperately not to be outdone by anyone on attacking, either, Palma was Celtic’s joint-top shooter yesterday afternoon with four, sharing the highest total with Kyogo. One thing to note with this total, however, is the xG accumulation for his strikes, which was a lowly 0.06. Kyogo had 1.35 with the same amount of opportunities, so perhaps Palma has to get into better areas before deciding to strike, rather than shooting on sight. Either way, two assists yesterday was good work for one of Celtic’s only success stories regarding transfers last summer.

Sticking with the Honduras international, he was Celtic’s top OBV contributor in this field of analytics also. Registering 0.26 for his 38 passes on the day, he was the only player to register red OBV colourings for both halves of the match for Celtic. This indicates that his teammates trust him to cause damage on the ball whenever it is distributed to the winger. Of course, he can be selfish and make the wrong decision in games, but he gets away with it due to the magic he possesses on those boots of his.

Pressures are so important in the game of football, with many of the same players being the top performers for Celtic in every match. With that being said, one of the biggest surprises this season has been the emergence of Palma as an excellent presser of the ball, a part of his game that has been grossly underrated by many.

In yesterday’s game, he topped Celtic’s pressure chart with 17, managing four counterpressures in the process. It must be noted that Celtic did not need to pressure much in this game, given their dominance in possession, but it is nice to see that Palma gets stuck in, especially when he is mainly in the team due to his attacking prowess.

Carter-Vickers’ colossal Centurian performance

It was a momentous day for the USA international, as he made his 100th appearance for the club in yesterday’s 2-0 win. Quite fittingly, the defender managed to get a clean sheet on his big day, as he and Scales managed to keep Livingston at bay for the duration of the game. At this stage, Carter-Vickers does not need to prove his value or quality to anybody, but that does not stop him from continuing to stroll games with relative ease most weeks for Celtic.

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In this game, in particular, he managed 14 clearances, combining to make 24 with his defensive partner in Scales. He was also tied with his teammate in aerial duel wins with seven, in what was a relatively straightforward day for the defensive stalwart. Winning 88 per cent of his duels in the air, Celtic must do all that they can to convince Carter-Vickers to sign increased terms at the club or face another defensive headache if he were to leave the club. If he is fit and available, there is no better in Scotland than Celtic’s number 20.

Back to winning ways

The past two results before this victory were a real down point for this side under the returning Rodgers, as results elsewhere meant that their gap at the top of the table had been reduced to just two points. It was vitally important that the side got back to their usual concerning winning in this one, and they did so without much fuss in the end.

Managing 76 per cent possession, 87 per cent pass completion and 22 total shots at goal, this was much more like it from the home side, who next face Dundee at Dens Park on Boxing Day. As far as Celtic are concerned, the job is only a quarter done, as they will be looking to pick up a maximum of 12 points from their final four games before the winter break.