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Livingston v Dundee United verdict: Player ratings, star man and key moments as Aziz Behich rescues precious point

Aziz Behich struck his fourth goal of the season. Image: SNS
Aziz Behich struck his fourth goal of the season. Image: SNS

Aziz Behich rescued a pivotal point for Dundee United as the Tangerines recovered from a dire first half against Livingston to draw 1-1.

Steven Bradley gave Livi a richly-merited advantage following a superb run and cross by Joel Nouble, minutes after rattling the bar.

Kieran Freeman was also fortunate not to be given his marching orders as he toiled against Nouble.

However, United were a different proposition after the break and restored parity through Behich, albeit Bradley struck the woodwork once more.

While desperate for a victory in their game in hand, the draw sees United move to within three points — one win — of Ross County and Kilmarnock, with superior goal difference to the latter.

Key moments

Cristian Montano registered two shots in the opening 10 minutes as the tone for the first half was set.

Bradley, a constant threat drifting in from the right flank, rattled the cross-bar with a ferocious drive from the edge of the box. Already, there was a sense of inevitability about the opener.

And it was former Hibs kid Bradley who broke the deadlock.

Livi celebrate Bradley’s opener. Image: SNS

Nouble skipped past Freeman on the left wing and drove into the box before delivering a perfect cut-back. Bradley slammed home from 10 yards.

Loick Ayina headed wide after rising highest to meet a Jamie McGrath corner-kick; a rare foray into the Livi box for the men in black.

Freeman should have been dismissed on the half-hour mark when — already on a booking for an earlier foul — he tugged back Montano. A clear yellow card by the letter of the law and only referee Matthew McDermid will know why he spared the youngster.

Freeman was immediately replaced by Liam Smith as Jim Goodwin acted decisively.

United were being outplayed, outfought and outthought.

Yet, they could have restored parity prior to half-time. Behich found Sadat Anaku with a wonderful low delivery, only for the Ugandan striker to somehow contrive to shoot wide from two yards. Gilt-edged stuff amid a fraught relegation fight.

A disbelieving Sadat after missing a sitter. Image: SNS

Kai Fotheringham replaced Anaku at half-time.

But more than the personnel changes, United emerged with far more impetus, with Behich, Ian Harkes and McGrath, in particular, providing far more drive.

Craig Sibbald and McGrath both headed wide as the Tangerines came back into the game. Not champagne football, but much better.

Then, cometh the hour, cometh the leveller.

A scuffed delivery by SIbbald was cleverly flicked on by Fotheringham, finding Behich at the back post. The Australia international was calm and composed to fire his fourth goal of the campaign.

United keeper Mark Birighitti fumbled a tame Bradley effort onto the base of the post in a heart-stopping moment.

The final chance would fall to Charlie Mulgrew, who forced a sharp save from Shamal George with a free-kick from 25 yards.

Star man: Aziz Behich

Despite being, nominally, a defensive player, Behich has often been United’s most dangerous attacker.

That was arguably the case again in West Lothian.

Behich is congratulated after levelling. Image: SNS

But for the wayward finishing of Anaku, the marauding wing-back would have notched a sumptuous assist.

And he showed the poise and clinical touch of a seasoned marksman to level; what an important goal it could prove.

Player ratings

Dundee United (5-3-2) Birighitti 5; Freeman 3 (Smith 33, 6), Ayina 6, Mulgrew 7, McMann 6, Behich 7; Sibbald 7, McGrath 6 (Niskanen 87); Harkes 6; Anaku 4 (Fotheringham 45, 5), Fletcher 6.

Subs not used: Newman, Graham, Djoum, Edwards, Cudjoe, Thomson.

Manager under the microscope

Goodwin did not shirk the big call.

Despite extolling the virtues of Ryan Edwards on Tuesday, the Tannadice boss did not hesitate in dropping his skipper following error-strewn showings against Ross County and Aberdeen.

Ayina, whose mobility and pace is more conducive to being deployed as wide centre-back in a three, was selected in his stead.

Dylan Levitt missed out altogether through injury, with striker Anaku coming into the starting line-up following a bright cameo against the Dons.

A traditional two-up-top partnership of Fletcher and Anaku was clearly intended to test a make-shift Livi centre-back duo of Morgan Boyes and Luiyi de Lucas. The latter had played just 14 minutes of competitive football since August prior to Wednesday night’s showdown.

While United’s first-half showing was poor, Goodwin was swift and pro-active with alterations.

Freeman and Anaku were both replaced within 45 minutes and the second half performance was vastly improved; the Terrors boss affected the game.