REO HATATE answered his critics with a dynamic display that deservely saw him win the Man-of-the-Match accolade in the 3-1 Premiership triumph over Kilmarnock at Parkhead.
The Japanese midfielder sparked to life to shred the Rugby Park opponents, score a memorable goal and put in a complete performance in his first full outing of the campaign.
During the week, CQN asked for the real Reo Hatate to stand up, but received a lackustre response with a tame showing in the 2-1 Champions League loss to Lazio under the lights in the east end of Glasgow.
REO GRAND…Brendan Rodgers praises resurgent Hatate. Image courtesy Celtic TV.
We implored the 25-year-old gifted operator to deliver the goods yesterday before the match against the team’s Viaplay League Cup conquerors in August.
On this occasion we saw the player who had become an instant hit with the Hoops fans following his move from Kawasaki Frontale in January 2022. This was a lot more like the Hatate who had taken his first derby encounter by the scruff of the neck and had dominated the Ibrox rivals, scoring two goals in a 3-0 romp a month after his arrival.
It was Hatate who got the ball rolling against the Ayrshire foes in the 22nd minute with a mesmerising piece of footwork that saw him nutmeg David Watson before embarking on a shimmering slalom run through the defence before providing the perfect finish with an exquisite low drive past frantically-diving Will Dennis into the right-hand corner of the net.
The gloom of a wet, grey afternoon at the stadium was immediatly lifted as the supporters rose as one to acclaim an individual piece of wizardry.
A beaming Brendan Rodgers said: “With Reo, it’s all about intensity, it’s all about work-rate because when he works to that level and that intensity, then he’s a fantastic player.
NET PROFIT ONE…Reo Hatate opens the scoring with a low drive.
NET PROFIT TWO…Killie keeper Will Dennis is helpless as Luis Palma thunders in a long-range drive.
NET PROFIT THREE…Greg Taylor stabs in the killer strike. Images courtesy Celtic TV.
“It was a great goal and he could have had maybe at least another, but he was very creative. His pressing was good, his quality was good and he was outstanding.
“The mental strength of the team is very good. We’ve had a run of tough games. We’ve had two Champions League games where we’ve shown that we’re close to being a really good and competitive side at that level.
“But you still have to come off the back of that disappointment and show your competitive spirit. The players did that and were very good.”
The champions dominated the encounter with a remarkable 77% with 26 shots, 12 of which were on target. Curiously, Killie netted with their only effort on target when Watson stroked the ball under the exposed Joe Hart, the keeper’s first home league concession since Carl Starfelt diverted one past him in the 4-2 victory over Ross County on the opening day of the season on August 5.
Luis Palma doubled the advantage with a whizzbang 25-yarder in the 33rd minute and Greg Taylor, with his first strike of the term, claimed the killer third eight minutes from the end.
Rodgers, speaking to Celtic TV, added: “It’s just getting better in each game and I thought the players were excellent.
“The scoreline maybe just didn’t show the quality, especially in the final third, that we had.
“We were very creative, we speeded up our game in the right moments and a combination of just that finishing touch and their keeper made some fantastic saves, it could have been one or two more goals.
“But, overall, I was really pleased.”
Rodgers and his players can take a breather from club football during the international break with the next league encounter due against Hearts at Tynecastle a fortnight today.