BRENDAN RODGERS and comeback Bhoy Reo Hatate were locked in an emotional embrace in the aftermath of Celtic’s 3-0 win over St Mirren in Paisley last night.

The influential Japanese midfielder came on the 71st minute for Paulo Bernardo as the champions eased to three points with strikes from Daizen Maeda, Matt O’Riley and Greg Taylor to restore their eight-point lead at the top of the Premiership.

It was the first sighting of Hatate on a football pitch since he limped off early in the 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid in the Champions League encounter at Parkhead on October 25.

REO’S BACK…Celtic midfielder Hatate makes a first-team appearance for the first time since October.

The 26-year-old international playmaker missed FIFTEEN consecutive games with a muscular problem and his relief at taking even a cameo role against the Saints was obvious to everyone.

Rodgers was quick to seek him out as the players once again acknowledged the backing of the travelling support and the Hoops boss said: “You could see afterwards Reo was actually quite emotional to be back out on the pitch again.

“He’s put in so much hard work and he’s a big, big player for us.

“So, hopefully, he can go away and get some minutes and keep his fitness up because when he comes back he’s going to be huge for us in the second half of the season.”

The Irishman, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “So, it’s great for him to be back and Liel, as well, because he brings a different dimension to the team.

“He’s a goalscorer, but he plays wide, so he’s always running into score. Having those two players will help us play the kind of football we want to see.”

WELCOME BACK…Brendan Rodgers embraces Reo Hatate at full-time.

Abada made his return in the 2-1 derby victory at Parkhead on Saturday when he replaced Maeda in the 83rd minute of the match that 11 minutes stoppage-time.

The Israeli forward continued his return to match fitness when he came on just after the hour mark in Paisley.

Hatate will now travel with Maeda to catch up with the Japanese squad for the Asian Cup which is scheduled to run for a month, kicking off on January 14.


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