Livingston secured their win of the Scottish Premiership season with a narrow 1-0 victory over Dundee United at Tannadice.
Cristian Montano scored the only goal of the game – his first for the club – early in the second half.
It was a disappointing defeat for the home side, who must now pick themselves up for the second leg of their Europa Conference League third qualifying round tie against AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands on Thursday.
How Livingston secured narrow victory
Before kick-off there was a minute’s applause for United great Finn Dossing, who died in June.
Livingston created the first opening of the game in the fifth minute when Joel Nouble pulled a ball back from the right to Sean Kelly at the edge of the United box but he dragged his low shot wide of home goalkeeper Mark Birighitti’s post.
After that early opportunity, both sides struggled to carve out further openings.
As the half-hour mark approached, there was a glimmer of a chance for the home side as striker Steven Fletcher chased down a long through ball but Livi ‘keeper Shamal George snuffed out the danger.
Fletcher tried his luck again with a speculative long-range shot but his effort flew well wide.
The Lions then made a promising break from inside their own half, with Montano eventually finding space down the left but his shot was off target and both sides headed down the tunnel at the break with the game still goalless.
However, the deadlock was finally broken in the 49th minute.
Nouble hit a shot which Birighitti did well to block but the ball rebounded to Nicky Devlin who teed up Montano and he fired a thunderous 20-yard shot that flew past the ‘keeper and into the back of the net.
United had a chance to make an instant response but Tony Watt’s close-range shot was well saved by George.
The home side continued to press for an equaliser, with skipper Ryan Edwards seeing a shot deflected wide and Fletcher going close shortly after.
Watt was then presented with a clear sight of goal but he could not keep his low shot from 16 yards out on target.
Livi could have doubled their lead in the 69th minute when Nouble played Scott Pittman through on goal but Birighitti did well to snuff out the danger with his feet.
United hit straight back as substitute Mathew Cudjoe struck a superb long-range effort that was tipped over the bar by George.
However, Livi saw the game out to take all three points.
Martingale told Montano he would score winner
Livingston boss David Martindale:
“I said to Cristian at half-time, ‘you’re going to win the game for us’ – and he went and won the game for us.
“Last season with Cristian I didn’t get the player I thought I had recruited. It took him a while to adapt to Scottish football, the training and playing loads.
“It’s a different type of football from League Two in England and I mean that in the nicest possible way. So it’s taken him a while to adapt but he’s come back this summer and he’s been top notch.
“I’m really happy for Cristian because he’s worked really hard.
“I think we deserved the win. The boys were brilliant and we were well worth our win. We could have got a second and it would have been deserved. We defended our box really well today.
“We probably got United at a good time. They’ve come off the back of a big European game and that really helped us. I’m not going to stand here and say otherwise.”
Ross: Europe not an excuse for performance
Dundee United boss Jack Ross:
“I am loath to use it [Europe] as an excuse because that would take away from Livingston’s performance and where we fell short.
“But I think if you speak to the managers in the Premiership outside of the big two who have done this, it is difficult.
“You don’t have the real depth which means you can make multiple changes but we still should have had a greater intensity.
“They had an incredible high on Thursday in terms of what they put into it, physically and what they put into it emotionally.
“It’s not an excuse, but it isn’t easy.”
Dundee United travel to the Netherlands for the second leg of their Europa Conference League third qualifying round tie against AZ Alkmaar on Thursday with a 1-0 lead; kick-off 8pm.
Up next for Livingston is a home match against Hibernian next Saturday in the Scottish Premiership; kick-off 3pm.
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