Instant gratification is no good for people, it gives our brains the wrong signals, but still, when it comes………. Within 4 minutes of making his Celtic debut Daizen Maeda opened the scoring against Hibernian. It was his first chance, his first proper involvement in play and pivoted the game away from Hibs, who should have already been ahead after Joe Hart and Josip Juranovic pondered in their six-yard box.
Such was the anticipation ahead of last night’s game that for some of us it brought back memories of Jorge Cadete’s debut against Aberdeen (delayed by maleficence at the SFA), or Paulo Di Canio’s against Kilmarnock the same year. Maeda’s impact was every bit as clinical. His 90 minutes was reminiscent of Kyogo; constant movement, gyroscopic balance, few touches and an outcome-determining performance.
If Maeda had a dream debut, Reo Hatate’s reached fantasy levels. When we first heard of Reo he was operating as a left back, with the cursed title of a utility player. The transformation he brought to Celtic’s play had to be seen to be believed. His role was to create and then utilise space, the former achieved by perpetual movement, the latter by ranging passes that switched play and swiftly pushed Celtic forward.
As a consequence, it all looked too easy for Celtic. They had options everywhere, a teammate in space, a forward pass tempting them into attack. Hatate’s movement impacted what happened everywhere on the field. It was a kind of omnipresence, even when he was 40 yards away (the limit of his distance from play), he was still consequential.
With so many playing their first game in over a month, the relenting pace of the first half could not continue. Celtic reduced their pressing after the break and saw the game out. With five substitutes available, it was curious that Ange Postecoglou waited until 74 minutes before brining on Yosuke Ideguchi, Giorgos Giakoumakis and Mikey Johnston.
Our third and final debutant of the night had a lot to live up to. Yosuke adopted the No. 6 role at the back of the midfield, with Callum McGregor moving one place ahead for the remainder of the game. He did enough to show comfort and competence on the ball, as Celtic subverted Hibernian hopes.
As I said above, instant gratification misleads our brains. My brain has already extrapolated last night’s performance across the remainder of the season. Let’s agree that at the very least, Celtic have embarked on an exciting road.