BEAMING Brendan Rodgers singled out Daizen Maeda for special praise after 10-man Celtic’s emphatic 3-0 over Livingston in West Lothian.
Following the double red card exits of Gustaf Lagerbiekle and Odin Holm in Rotterdam four days earlier, the champions had to play for over an hour with 10 men on the most treacherous surface in the Premiership.
Joe Hart was dismissed for the first time in his lengthy career after a collision with Mo Sangare just outside the box as both players were committed to a long ball that cleared the Hoops backline.
Referee John Beaton swiftly banished the 36-year-old 75 times-capped England international netminder to leave the visitors, leading with a Reo Hatate penalty-kick at the time, with an uphill fight against notoriously difficult opponents.
DENIED…Daizen Maeda is foiled on this occasion by Livi keeper Shamal George, but the Celt had more luck in stoppage time.
The Parkhead performers stood up to be counted, but none more so than Japanese ace Maeda.
Matt O’Riley, another Celt to deliver an exhausting shift, doubled the advantage three minutes after the turnaround and it was left to his perpetual motion team-mate to round off a wonderful display by exploding a left-foot drive high past Shamal George for the third.
Rodgers, speaking to Sky Sports immediately after the final whistle, exclaimed: “When you have Daizen Maeda in your team, you don’t really have 10 men.
“He puts in the work-rate of two players – unbelievable mentality.
“Daizen gets his reward in the end, but I think, overall, it’s a real collective effort and the boys showed outstanding resilience.
🗣️ "It's difficult for Joe [Hart], sometimes that ball will bounce and skid through… Peak Celtic, for me, is still a way off but that'll come as players return"
Brendan Rodgers reflects on Celtic's 3-0 win over Livingston and insists the best is yet to come 👇 pic.twitter.com/woewj1YAeO
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) September 23, 2023