THE game was fading towards the final whistle with Celtic coasting to an emphatic 4-0 victory over Ross County at Parkhead last weekend.
Referee Don Roberston was about to blow for time-up as the Hoops took another monumental step towards the very real prospect of an extraordinary achievement of the Premiership title in Ange Postecoglou’s debut campaign.
With three crucial points assured, Daizen Maeda chased a long ball deep in the Dingwall team’s territory forcing a defender to race across and clear. The moment went largely unnoticed as the clock ticked down on a performance that saw the Japanese frontman claim his sixth goal since his Hogmanay arrival.
TOUCH AND GO…Daizen Maeda nets Celtic’s third – and his contribution – in the 4-0 win over Ross County at Parkhead last weekend.
The spotlight, however, settled on Giorgos Giakoumakis who had just claimed his second Celtic hat-trick to hoist his tally to a dozen.
The unselfish running and outstanding work ethic of Maeda, a player who performed under the guidance of Postecoglou at Yokohama F Marinos, wouldn’t have been lost on the Greek-Australian.
The Hoops gaffer observed: “Daizen has a great energy about him. He has a huge appetite for work.
“He has this great reservoir of energy that he can call upon, whether it’s the first minute or last.
“I worked with Daizen before, so I knew what he could bring to a side.
“A lot of his work is stuff that maybe isn’t flashy and maybe doesn’t get the headlines.
“But in a team concept, it’s very important. Especially with the way we want to play.”
BEST FOOT FORWARD…Daizen Maeda puts the pressure on the Dundee United defence during the 3-0 Scottish Cup win at Tannadice.
Postecoglou, speaking to the Scottish Sun, added: “It’s not just his pressing. He makes a lot of runs off the ball – and doesn’t always receive it.
“But he creates a lot of space and opportunities for players, particularly when we are playing teams who prefer to sit deep.
“Daizen is only taking his first steps at Celtic and he will improve, but he has brought great energy to the group.”
Maeda missed out on Japan’s 2-0 win over Australia in Sydney in midweek which cemeted his nation’s place in the winter World Cup Finals in Qatar after withdrawing due to “fitness conditions”.
However, there is no suggestion the 24-year-old attacker is a doubt for the Premiership encounter at Ibrox a week tomorrow.
With his compatriot Kyogo Furuhashi struggling to make his first appearance in 2022 due to a persistent hamstring problem, it looks as though Postecoglou will again give the nod to Maeda and Giakoumakis to spearhead the assault on three more points in the quest for the club’s tenth crown in 11 years.