Celtic made a promising, yet frustrating return to Champions League group stage action on Tuesday evening, suffering a 3-0 defeat to holders Real Madrid despite what was a largely encouraging performance for the Scottish champions at Parkhead.
While plaudits don’t win points, the Glasgow side will have certainly been boosted by the glowing assessment of their performance against the 14-time winners, with reports in the Spanish media notably lauding Ange Postecoglou’s side for ‘terrifying’ their opponents.
One man that particularly caught the eye amid what was a “spectacular atmosphere” – as dubbed by Los Blancos star Luke Modric – was Japan international Reo Hatate, with the diminutive midfielder having sparkled against such elite opposition.
The 5 foot 7 playmaker appeared unfazed at coming up against Carlo Ancelotti’s stellar cast of talent, with writer Joel Sked labelling him as a “level above” his fellow teammates, having sparkled in what was a strong first-half display from the Scottish Premiership side.
Buoyed by their recent Old Firm triumph, the in-form hosts had really taken the game to the La Liga outfit in that opening 45 minutes, with Hatate notably drawing a fine save from opposition stopper Thibaut Courtois as he very nearly scared their fierce opposition.
Had it not been for a few inches, his impressive teammate Callum McGregor may well have fired the home side ahead amid that impressive start, albeit with Hoops skipper seeing his fierce effort frustratingly cannon off the post.
Having failed to capitalise on that strong opening, Postecoglou’s side were dealt a harsh lesson after the interval as Madrid brutally and clinically stormed ahead, with goals from Vinicius Jr, Eden Hazard and the aforementioned Modric ensuring a comfortable end to proceedings for the visitors.
Despite that disappointment, Hatate will no doubt be one of many who can hold his head high, with Football Scotland’s Euan Robertson notably writing that the 24-year-old was a ‘joy to watch’ and ‘didn’t look out of place’ against world-class opposition.
Such a performance has only added to the notion that the former Kawasaki Frontale man – who arrived in Scotland on a £1.4m deal back in January – has been of the “absolute bargains” that the club have secured of late, in the words of pundit Gabby Agbonlahor, with Celtic no doubt delighted to have such a talented, hard-working asset in their ranks.
The “intense” ace – as described by Frank McAvennie – has sparkled in his relatively brief time at Celtic Park to date, with the hope being that he can continue to produce such noteworthy displays in the coming months and years.