BRENDAN RODGERS admiited there is much work for his Celtic players to do as they prepare for the new campaign.
The second time-around Hoops boss saw his team topple to a 6-4 loss against Yokohoma F Marinos in the Nissan Stadium last night and the hosts’ superior fitness clearly separated the teams.
Rodgers’ men were 3-2 ahead at the interval following a scintillating hat-trick from Daizen Maeda as he returned to his former club to demonstrate his powerful finishing skills.
However, the champions faltered after the break as their opponents broke them down and Joe Hart and then substitute Benji Siegrist were the busiest men on the park.
THREE CHEERS…Liel Abada, Reo Hatate and Daizen Maeda celebrate the pacy attacker’s hat-trick.
Rodgers, though, could take some positives from a 10-goal thriller and he singled out Maeda and Tomoki Iwata, also returning to his old stomping ground, as being two of the team’s successes.
The Irishman said: “I thought Daizen was outstanding in his running, his touch and his finishing. I’m really pleased for him. He was amazing in all aspects. I was impressed from afar, but he was very good.
“Also, from Tomoki. I thought he was excellent. Playing in right-back, a position he hasn’t played too much, I thought he played really well.
“Overall for the two boys, I was pleased for them to come back to their home country and get a lovely reception from the supporters.”
Now, though, it is all about getting the players’ match fitness levels up to an acceptable standard before the Premiership kicks off on Flag Day at Parkhead against Ross County a fortnight on Saturday,
Reflecting on the action against Marinos, Rodgers, speaking to Celtic TV, continued: “It was a tough schedule for us in terms of arriving here so quickly. This is a good team and they are pretty much three-quarters of the way through their season.
NET PROFIT…Daizen Maeda crosses the line after his second goal.
“It was perfect for what we needed with the fitness levels we need to be at and there’s still a lot of work to do on that front. We played two behind closed doors and each game is a step-up in performance levels.
“We can’t lose track of the priority at this stage. You can never go on results and we need to build that fitness and you could see Yokohama were that bit sharper.
“We will get to that point, but we have to focus on our physicality and that will improve over the coming weeks. The main priority was our fitness and we will have benefited.
“You can see whenever it works well, some of the patterns in penetrating the space in behind to attract opponents out and then counter them with the ball, they did that very well.
“In other moments we were maybe hesitant with the ball and maybe didn’t get our pass away quick enough.
“That’s what pre-season is for. It’s for flushing out all of those mistakes and building your fitness up. We can build through that over the course of pre-season.”
TURNBULL ON TARGET…the Celtic midfielder prepares to thump in No.4 against Yokohama F Marinos.
The champions now take on Gamba Osaka on Saturday and the manager acknowledged he is likely to change things for the second game in the Far East before heading back to Scotland.
Rodgers, who utilised 22 players last night, added: “We wanted to really push a number of players. So, by the time they were coming off at 65 minutes, you could see the tiredness in the legs.
“We needed to get them through that and come the weekend we will go back to two 45 minutes because of the heat and everything else.
“That will allow us to get back to a good place physically after this trip. There’s a lot of work for us to do, enjoyable work, but we look forward to the next challenge.”