MATT O’RILEY proved he wasn’t afraid to get the sleeves rolled up with an exhausting and eye-catching display in the 3-0 win at Livingston.
The playmaker is better known for his elegance on the ball and his thoughtful probing from the middle of the park.
However, O’Riley displayed steel and resilience against rough and ready opponents on a treacherous surface and the former Danish Under-21 international was more than prepared to cover the acres of plastic and get in crucial blocks as the hosts attempted to take advantage of their numerical superiority.
MATT FINISH…stylish Celt Matt O’Riley prods in No.2 against Livingston.
Joe Hart was banished for the first time in his career to leave his team-mates with more than an hour to repel a Livi side determined to bring woe to their visitors.
The champions were already a goal ahead following Reo Hatate’s early penalty-kick and faced another severe test of character only four days after completing their Champions League opener against Feyenoord with nine men following the red cards for Gustaf Lagerbiekle and Odin Holm within six minutes of each other in the second-half in Rotterdam.
O’Riley led by example and even found time to snap up a ricochet to rifle in the Hoops’ second goal three minutes after the break before Daizen Maeda completed a praiseworthy afternoon for Brendan Rodgers’ side by pulverising an unstoppable third high past the transfixed Shamal George.
The Londoner, a bargain £1.5million recruit from MK Dons in January 2022, said: “I thought we managed it very, very well.
“We started the game really well, got an early goal and were a bit unfortunate to go down to 10 men when we did, but, in saying that, we were pretty much comfortable throughout the whole game.
“Defensively, were really solid from front to back, so I’m really happy.
JOY BHOYS…goalscorer Matt O’Riley is congratulated by Callum McGregor and Liam Scales.
“It’s about staying calm in your head when it gets to that point because we know we’ve got the quality to keep playing.
“As long as you’re comfortable with the ball, you need to take in situations where you’ve got a man behind you, but as long as you’re comfortable it’s not a problem.
“It was definitely a good test for us in terms of confidence and being able to keep clean sheets.
“Even on Tuesday night against Feyenoord, albeit we had nine men, I think the boys stuck it out for the whole game.”
Reflecting on his personal offering, O’Riley, speaking to Celtic TV, added: “I think it’s just about resetting for each game and reminding yourself it’s only the next game, and the next game or training session so you can keep in that frame of mind.
“It’s quite easy to come back to the centre and reset, so that’s what I’m trying to do.
“And I’m feeling really fit which is also a bonus if you feel better on the pitch.”