Reo Hatate missed three games through injury early this season. During that period, we scored only one goal, went out the League Cup and dropped our only points of the season before Saturday. Reo returned as a second half substitute at home to Dundee, with only a penalty goal separating the teams, but within seven minutes of Reo’s appearance Kyogo and Matt O’Riley goals put the game to bed.
Reo is out again, and Celtic are blunt; again. It is no coincidence we have only dropped points when sans-Reo. He is the key to unlocking packed defences when minds and limbs are tired (which contrasts to the more open game we saw against Atletico).
Four full games without him, scoring only one goal, is quite a statistic for a team that rattles goals in for fun at other times. We have three league games before the November international break: St Mirren at home, Ross County away, then Aberdeen at home, with the return trip to Madrid scheduled in between.
With the likelihood of a win slowly slipping away, Brendan Rodgers turned to David Turnbull, James Forrest and Mikey Johnston, memories of 20-21 came flooding back. Mikey’s last appearance for Celtic came 21 months ago, also against Hibernian. The changes didn’t affect the result, but in the circumstances, Mikey did all right. He was certainly one of our better performers during his time on the field.
Until Wednesday, Brendan can ponder why a player tweaks a hamstring 35 seconds into a game.
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