Scottish champions Celtic maintained their grip on top spot with victory over Motherwell at Fir Park on Wednesday evening, with Ange Postecoglou’s side overcoming stubborn opposition – and VAR controversies – to clinch a 13th win from their opening 14 league games.
The visitors took the lead early on following a simple tap-in from Kyogo Furuhashi, with the diminutive forward netting for the third time in as many meetings with Steven Hammell’s side this season, taking his total tally against the Steelmen to five in five.
The 27-year-old – who netted a dramatic late strike in the 4-2 victory over Dundee United at the weekend – has now scored in each of his past three Scottish Premiership games to ensure that the Japan international now has ten goals in just 12 games in the competition this season.
This recent hot streak has come amid the former Vissel Kobe man’s surprise World Cup snub, with the dynamic marksman – as well as club colleague Reo Hatate – missing out on an inclusion in Hajime Moriyasu’s squad.
One Hoops figure who will be on the plane to Qatar, however, is compatriot Daizen Maeda, with the electric forward having showcased his quality off the bench with a stunning finish to wrap up the points late on, albeit with Ross Tierney’s strike just minutes later ensuring a nervy climax.
While Kyogo’s earlier effort may have been fairly routine, Maeda’s strike was no doubt far more impressive, with the 25-year-old producing a “superb run and finish“, in the words of journalist John McGinley, to slide his attempt home following a brilliant through ball from David Turnbull.
Such a moment of quality has showcased just what the £18k-per-week dynamo can offer to the Glasgow side in attack, with journalist Sacha Pisani notably stating that it was the Maeda that “fans love to see“.
The former J-League star – who arrived in Scotland in January – has been on the receiving end of his fair share of criticism in recent times, with Football Scotland’s Mark Hendry notably stating last month: “Yet to be totally sold on Daizen Maeda. Offers Celtic a lot of hard work but his actual technical quality on the ball leaves a lot to be desired.”
That assessment had come amid the forward’s woes in Europe, having missed three big chances in the Champions League group stage, although the relentless “machine“, as dubbed by ex-Bhoys striker Chris Sutton, now boasts three goals and four assists from his 11 league outings.
The hope will be that the eight-cap sensation – who now has 21 goal involvements in 43 games for the Parkhead giants – can maintain that form for his country in the coming weeks, before returning full of confidence when club action resumes at the end of December.