LIEL ABADA revealed it was “fun” to hammer in Celtic’s third goal in February’s 3-0 romp against Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s shell-shocked visitors.
The Hoops were already flying with two exquisite goals from Reo Hatate when the Japanese midfielder skipped down the left wing and delivered a fine ball into the penalty box.
Abada left the befuddled Borna Barisic in his slipstream as he raced into position in the penalty area to neatly first-time an effort away from the motionless Allan McGregor just on the stroke of half-time.
PARADISE…Liel Abada celebrates scoring Celtic’s third goal in the rout of their Ibrox opponents in February.
There was no way back for the Ibrox team as Ange Postecoglou’s side went to the Premiership pinnacle for the first time this season – and they have remained at the summit ever since. The title is now looming into view after the inexplicable debacle of the previous campaign when the team limped in a nonsensical 25 points off the pace.
Abada is hoping to be able to play his part in shooting his team nine points ahead with only three games to play after the dust settles on the High Noon derby showdown on Sunday.
The Israel winger, a virtual unknown who cost £3.5million when he arrived from Maccabi Petah Tikva in July, wants to again sample the atmosphere of a rocking, pulsating Parkhead with a sell-out crowd reacting to the spectacle provided by their favourites.
Abada said: “It’s always fun to score against Rangers. It’s a great feeling to score against your biggest rivals.
“I was happy to give the supporters a big result. The most important thing was we won the game and collected the three points.
ACROBATIC ANTICS…Liel Abada tries a spectacular overhead-kick against Motherwell at Fir Park.
“Was it the best atmosphere I have experienced? Of course. I’m only 20 and I played in some big games in Israel. But this was amazing. If we win on Sunday, could it be even better? Of course!
“The atmosphere is always amazing inside Celtic Park, but if we win the championship? I don’t even know what it will be like.
“We can talk about that afterwards, so the focus is on Sunday and completing our goal.”
Abada, speaking to The Herald, continued: “It’s been a really good season for us, but we have a goal and we need to complete it.
“We have to focus on an important game on Sunday. We want to play at high level and we try to win everything.
“This is Celtic and we play for the fans. If we take the championship it will be a dream season for us.”
SILVERWARE BUDDIES…Israeli double-act Nir Bitton and Liel Abada celebrate Celtic’s 2-1 Premier Sports League Cup success at Hampden six days before Christmas.
Abada netted on his debut in the 1-1 Champions League first leg qualifying stalemate against FC Midtjylland on July 20 – but had to be substituted when Postecoglou was forced to reorganise following a red card for the raiding forward’s countryman Nir Bitton just before the interval.
Ironically, the pacy 15-goal frontman, who has been nominated by his fellow professionals for Scotland’s Young Player of the Year award, has given massive credit to the experienced international who once described the youngster as a “little boy”.
Bitton has gone through the “big brother” routine to help his compatriot settle into a new country and a fresh football environment which has helped the summer recruit to hit the ground running.
Abada added: “I want to thank the fans, the coaches and particularly Nir.
“He has become like a big brother to me. When I came here he made sure I had everything I need. On top of being a really good player, he’s a top human being.
“Nir and his family have really helped me settle in Glasgow. I can’t explain how much he’s helped. He even cooks for me. I’m not sure about washing my clothes, but he’s really done a lot.
“It was difficult coming here at first as a young player. But I am a footballer who has a dream and I want to improve.
“Celtic are a very warm club with passionate supporters. I feel right at home now. We feel very united in the dressing room as well. There is a great atmosphere and we are all there for each other.
CAPTAIN’S ROLE…Callum McGregor holds aloft the newly-won League Cup alongside delighted team-mates Nir Bitton, Liel Abada and Carl Starfelt.
“It’s great fun to see all the love and appreciation you get from the supporters when I am in the city.
“Everyone is so good when you talk to them in the street and I just want to repay them.”
Asked about who he would choose for the top award as Scottish football’s best players, Abada replied: “If I could give an award to every player in the squad, I would do it – because they all deserve it.
“Callum McGregor has been the most important player in the squad, though. He’s looked after everyone and kept us all together.
“He has been very good for us.”
The skipper’s influence – and that of his colleagues – is likely to be evident once again as Celtic prepare to launch another pulverising performance on derby day in the east end of Glasgow on Sunday.
The tenth Premiership crown in eleven years is now in sharp focus.