ANGE POSTECOGLOU reckoned debut Bhoy Tomoki Iwata was “great” in Celtic’s 2-0 win over Ross County at the weekend.
Former Hoops fans’ favourite Charlie Nicholas, however, disagreed with the Greek-Australian gaffer and insisted the Japanese midfielder “struggled” in Dingwall.
To most onlookers, including the CQN match reporter, Iwata, who played the entire 98 minutes of the crucial encounter, gave an excellent account of himself.
ON THE RUN…Tomoki Iwata during his first start for Celtic in the win in Dingwall.
Postecoglou beamed after the victory that restored the champions’ nine-point advantage and was particularly pleased with the display of the 25-year-old enforcer who was the J-League Player of the Year award before his £1million move from Yokohama F Marinos to Parkhead in January.
The champions’ chief said: “Tomoki was great. He was the one who looked most sure-footed in terms of the pitch and the handling of the ball. He’s so clean technically.
“He really helped us considering it was his first 90 minutes after three months. He finished strongly at the end. I was really pleased I got him out and he showed his qualities out there.”
But Nicholas wasn’t quite so impressed by Iwata who was given his first start following seven substitute appearances.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s Glasgow derby, the former Parkhead personality, writing in his Daily Express column, stated: “If Celtic are at full-strength then they would go with a midfield of Reo Hatate, Aaron Mooy and Callum McGregor.
“I am hearing that Hatate could be out longer than has been suggested, but nobody knows for sure.
“If that is the case then Hatate would be a big miss.
“Tomoki Iwata struggled at Ross County. McGregor is just superior and Matt O’Riley is a bit rusty.”
FLYING HIGH…Tomoki Iwata wins the ball in a challenge against Ryan Kent in Celtic’s League Cup Final win at Hampden in February.
Postecoglou may be surprised by Nicholas’ observation, but it’s doubtful if he would even think twice about playing the international in a game where the Hoops know a win will put them a massive 12 points ahead with only seven matches to play.
Hatate limped off with what looked like a hamstring problem after only 13 minutes of the 3-1 win over Hibs 17 days ago.
He and Mooy sat out Sunday’s trip to the Highlands and Postecoglou is not expected to give an update on the progress of either player until 24 hours before the kick-off against Michael Beale’s outfit.