Rarely in the last 40 years have Celtic been so comfortable at a game in the captial. The champions went ahead within three minutes courtesy of a sublime Matt O’Riley volley, from a forward-pitched cross by Luis Palma. It has been an education watching Matt (still only 22) develop as a player.
Matt’s talent was evident when he first arrived in January last year, a £1.5m snip from MK Dons. His midfield role was less effective last season, but Brendan Rodgers has tweaked his game incredibly. We are fortunate to have seen many great Celtic goals in recent seasons, yesterday’s opener from Matt is up there with the best of them.
I regularly read opposing views on Daizen Maeda. With space to close down, as he had when we were down to 10 men at Livingston, he is a class apart. Then there is his distribution. Yesterday he drove into the box midway through the first half to convert Reo Hatate’s cross and effectively tie up the points for Celtic. He made the game more interesting midway through the second half with a pass in front of his own 18 yard line that found Lawrence Shankland, who thumped the ball in off the post.
You would think Kyogo would be permanently marked when inside the opposition box. Most of the time, this holds, but Kyogo looks for space while his supporting cast from the Celtic midfield arrive in the area hunting the ball. Defenders the world over are drawn to the ball and to movement. This scene played out early in the first half. Kyogo, all alone with the ball and facing a startled Zander Clark, made no mistake.
Last week, discussing Callum McGregor, “one of the world’s busiest players”, I wrote:
“Brendan Rodgers has many challenges: pressure to win every game domestically, then having to make the huge step up for Europe, with few genuine advantages. One, though, is the luxury of winning many games early, another is having central mid options. He should make the most of them.”
Brendan immediately hooked Callum on Tomoki Iwata restoring our three-goal lead. Wise management of the player will extend Callum’s career, it will also allow the development of Iwata, Bernardo and Holm.
Like you, I don’t have a dog in the fight over what happens at Hearts, but their Steven Naismith experiment is so obviously doomed. Vacant seats were visible at the start of the game, while the home sections of the stadium were practically empty before fulltime. Running a football club is easy, as I am sure Ann Budge will tell you – as long as you stick to talking about Celtic fans.