BRENDAN RODGERS has added fortune-teller to his many qualities as Celtic manager.
Marathon man Daizen Maeda produced another inexhaustible display as he covered the plastic and netted a spectacular third goal in a grand finale to the champions’ 3-0 win in Livingston at the weekend.
And the Japanese international forward was not one bit surprised to claim his first strike of the campaign – because his team boss told him he would be on the scoresheet against David Martindale’s side.
ONE HOWITZER COMING UP…Daizen Maeda powers past defender Tom McPake on his way to thundering in Celtic’s third goal against Livingston.
Maeda admitted afterwards: “The manager has started me in recent games, even though I didn’t score. I am grateful to him and that shows that he trusts me.
“Even before the game on Saturday, he told me I was going to score. I was very happy to repay his faith in me.”
Maeda’s crashing drive that thumped high into Shamal George’s net deep in stoppage-time capped a fine, professional display from the visitors who were forced to play for over an hour with 10 men after Joe Hart’s dismissal in the 29th minute.
It was a disciplined showing from the Hoops who were leading with a Reo Hatate penalty-kick at the time of the keeper’s red card.
Matt O’Riley pounced to sweep in the second goal shortly after the turnaround and Maeda brought down the curtain with his stunning strike to wrap up the victory to remain two points ahead of nearest challengers St Mirren who won 1-0 over Hearts in Paisley.
The 25-year-old speedster, speaking to the Daily Record, insisted: “It wasn’t just about the goal. I was purely playing to keep contributing to the team and helping us get the victory.
THAT’S MY BHOY…Matt O’Riley congratulates Daizen Maeda after scoring No.3 in West Lothian.
“I was thinking: ‘At some point it is going to come’. I was very happy to finally score at the end. When I was playing as a winger I was managing to get into some good positions.
“When I went up front I knew that I had to get the goals for the team, so I managed to get into some nice positions and eventually I managed to score.”
Reflecting on the 2-0 loss to Feyenoord in Rotterdam in the previous outing, the brutally honest Maeda continued: “I let the fans down in the Champions League game as we couldn’t get the result. We had to put it behind us and concentrate on the league game.
“I was very happy to give the supporters a good result and performance.
“We have a week to prepare for our next match, so, hopefully, we can continue in the same form next time. Whatever has gone on before, we cannot look back. There is a time to talk about it, but then we move on.
“There are a lot of positives to take from the win and we will be looking to do our best next time out.”
A BIG HAND…Brendan Rodgers applauds the Celtic fans at Livingston.
Next up for Maeda and his team-mates is a visit to Fir Park to take on Motherwell who were unfortunate to lose 1-0 at Ibrox yesterday where the game ended to sustained booing and jeering from the irate home fans.
Rodgers will then turn his attention back to the Champions League with Lazio due at Parkhead four days later.
Maeda added: “For me, I think it’s important to get results in the domestic league as that will allow us to take confidence into the European games.
“Winning in the league is important first – then we can take belief into the European matches.”