Livingston 1 Celtic 4
Celtic survived an early fright to cruise through to the quarter-finals of the Tennent’s Scottish Cup with a 4-1 win over First Division Livingston at Almondvale.
David Mackay drove the home side into the lead after 18 minutes but the visitors, inspired by playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura, fought back and goals by Darren O’Dea and Derek Riordan gave them an interval lead.
Riordan’s second goal just before the hour mark effectively sealed the victory before Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink added one more for good measure soon after.
But the match was a testament to the skills of the Japan international who had one of his best games in a Hoops jersey, contributing to three Celtic goals and an afternoon of torment for the home side.
The Parkhead men had been beaten by First Division opposition in last season’s competition in the shape of Clyde but the Parkhead men were strong favourites to dispose of the West Lothian side in front of a slightly-less than full Almondvale.
But memories of Broadwood flooded back when Livi took a sensational lead in the 18th minute following a Lee Makel free-kick.
The former Hearts player knocked an innocuous ball into the Celtic penalty area and Mackay had plenty of room to flick a header past Artur Boruc from around 16 yards out.
The goal spurred the SPL champions into action and in the following minutes, the home side had to withstand some heavy pressure.
Amid the siege, Celtic defender Lee Naylor popped up to try his luck from 30 yards but his effort was deflected for a corner.
Livingston survived that set-piece but their goal remained intact for only a few seconds more.
In the 29th minute, Neil Lennon’s cross into the box was headed down by Vennegoor of Hesselink to the unmarked O’Dea who slammed the ball past the helpless Almondvale keeper Colin Stewart from around eight yards out.
The Glasgow side began to turn the screw on their lower league opponents and Livingston survived a decent penalty claim in the 35th minute when Makel appeared to barge Nakamura inside the Livi box.
Referee Charlie Richmond ignored the Parkhead pleas and the home players and fans breathed a sigh of relief.
Two minutes before the interval, Riordan took a wonderful cross-field Nakamura pass, turned inside Fox and curled a right-footed effort from 16 yards just past the far post.
But in the second minute of added time, the former Hibernian player took an O’Dea pass and drove a tremendous shot past Stewart from just inside the Livi penalty area.
Livingston came out for the second half positively and had a decent chance to equalise after 60 seconds of the restart when hit-man Neil Teggart headed down to Fox 16 yards from goal but the midfielder volleyed high over the bar.
Second later, as the home side went all out for the equaliser, Naylor cleared from almost on his goalline after striker Steven Craig failed to connect properly with a dangerous Allan Walker cross.
At the other end, Paul Telfer, Jiri Jarosik and Nakamura combined well in a move which ended with the Japan international testing Stewart with a low drive from the edge of the box.
Celtic re-asserted themselves on the game and Riordan had a spectacular volley from another fine Nakamura pass, this time his right-footed effort from 20 yards going just over.
But the visitors sealed their quarter-final place in the 58th minute when some Nakamura brilliance at the edge of the Livingston box allowed Riordan to go through and drill home Celtic’s third.
Two minutes later, the Japan international again turned provider, splitting the Almondvale defence and Vennegoor of Hesselink confidently shot past Stewart from 16 yards out.
Celtic continued to go for goals and substitute Thomas Gravesen, on for Jarosik, rounded Stewart near the byline but Mackay cleared his angled-effort off the line.
Paul Hartley flicked a Riordan cross into the side-netting with 10 minutes to go which denied him a debut goal.
The visitors took their foot of the gas in the final moments, happy with their performance and their inclusion in the draw for the next round.