FILIPE JOTA was smiles better when he made his first appearance for Celtic after missing the five previous encounters.
The Portuguese winger came on in the 79th minute as a replacement for Sead Haksabanovic with the champions already two goals to the good courtesy of strikes from Kyogo Furuhashi and Greg Taylor against Livingston on their notorious plastic pitch.
Jota proved he had overcome his problematic hamstring injury by getting into his stride immediately and becoming involved in the Andrew Shinnie handball that won the Hoops their first penalty-kick since April. Unfortunately, though, a lackadaisical attempt from Giorgos Giakoumakis clipped the outside of Jack Hamilton’s right-hand post and bounced harmlessly away for a goal-kick.
S-T-R-E-T-C-H…Filipe Jota races in to get his toe to David Turnbull’s astute pass.
PICK IT OUT…Filipe Jota looks on as the ball whips wide of Jack Hamilton for Celtic’s third goal.
The comeback Bhoy showed his Greek striking partner how it was done when he nudged home the third goal three minutes from time after racing clear to get on the end of a clever ball across the penalty area from David Turnbull.
It was an enterprising and enjoyable return for the fans’ favourite as he demonstrated when he shared the joy with the travelling support after claiming his sixth goal of the campaign.
Jota admitted he is also thrilled to be named in Portugal’s World Cup provisional squad of 55 players for Qatar and said: “It’s a very good moment for me and for my family.
“I’m just grateful for everything that is going on. Two years ago, I was not even playing for any club. I was at a club, of course, but I wasn’t having many minutes.
CELEBRATIONS…Filipe Jota accepts the acclaim of the Celtic support.
JUMP FOR JOY…Filipe Jota takes off after claiming his sixth goal of the campaign.
“Two years later, to be on this 55-man list is something very good for me, but this is just another step. I just need to keep working and enjoying it on the pitch, and everything will come naturally.
“You cannot just be obsessed with those kinds of things. I wake up every day with the mentality of being a better person and a better football player, and building a strong base to be better.
“I’m happy to be playing again. It was a very important moment for me coming back from injury, but, most of all, it was about the victory for the team. I think in football we have to be ready for these kinds of situations.
“Although we can be very professional, some injuries always come up because we cannot control everything, it’s just like it works with life, you cannot control everything.
“So, when there are these setbacks we just need to fight back to get better every day and aim for the future – and that’s what I’ve wanted to do these past three weeks.
“This was a game that we knew was going to be very difficult like every season, every time we come here, but I was very happy to get the win.”
FANS’ FAVOURITE…Filipe Jota goes to celebrate with the travelling support.
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL…Filipe Jota shares the joy.
Asked if he is ready to face Real Madrid in the Bernabeu on Wednesday, Jota, speaking to the Daily Record, replied: “That’s not a question for me, that’s a question for the gaffer.
“If he is ready to put me in, I am ready to fight for him, for the team and for the club. So that is up to him. In my opinion, every game is a good stage. You are always under evaluation from your coach, other teams, your previous teams, Celtic, everyone.
“You just need to be ready for everything and to keep on the level, and to be very consistent. That’s very important in football.”
Despite Celtic picking up a mere two points from a possible 15 in Champions League Group F, Jota is convinced the team are on the right path.
The £6.5million buy from Benfica in the summer added: “That the quality has been there in every game and people who understand football can see that okay, the guys are playing well, there are just some details we are not getting.
“In the Champions League, you pay a very high price if you are not on it in every game. I think there is always a determination in these games, but our aim for the rest of the season is to play every Premiership game as if it is a Champions League game.
“We need to remind ourselves that we want to be better every day and in order to do that we just need to think as though it could be our last game, so we have to fight for that.
“That’s our mentality.”