BRENDAN RODGERS reckons Reo Hatate has “come alive” for the first time since the Irishman’s arrival as second time-around Celtic manager in June.

The Japanese midfielder has struggled with a loss of form and injury, but sparked in a convincing display in the 3-1 win over Kilmarnock at Parkhead at the weekend.

The team boss and the influential playmaker had a heart-to-heart discussion in the aftermath of the agonising 2-1 Champions League loss to Lazio in midweek.

MY BALL…Reo Hatate awaits the penalty-kick decision against Kilmarnock with VAR demanding a review of the referee’s original decision. The spot-kick award was reversed.

Once again, Hatate had failed to inspire as he toiled against the Serie A outfit and it was no surprise when he was hooked in the 72nd minute to make way for on-loan Benfica recruit Paulo Bernardo.

But the Hoops chief and the supporters saw the former Kawasaki Frontale ace take the match against the club’s Viaplay League Cup conquerors by the scruff of the neck as he netted a memorable opening goal and put in an exhausting 90-plus minutes as the champions opened up seven-point gap at the top of the Premiership.

A beaming Rodgers, who celebrated his 700th game in management against the Ayrshire outfit, told the Daily Record: “This was the first game that Reo has come alive for me.

“That’s the level. You can’t switch the engine on and off. At the highest level against the best players, you have to turn up every week.

“That’s the challenge for Reo. He’s not young, he’s 25.

“But at that level of intensity, everything else is then natural for him. It’s my job as a coach to help him stay there.”

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