Celtic fans were left frustrated following the victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park last weekend, and that feeling was reflected by the manager Brendan Rodgers as he revealed that his half-time team-talk in Perth was the angriest he had ever been in his managerial career.
Given his visible anger and frustration, even after the full-time whistle, fans expected Rodgers to ring the changes for Wednesday’s visit of Hibernian to Celtic Park and the manager did just that, with Tomoki Iwata, Mikey Johnston and Oh Hyeon-gyu all being afforded rare starting opportunities to try and stake their claim in a Celtic squad that had been misfiring over the last few weeks.
Celtic ran out 4-1 winners in what was a dominant and controlled display, but did the three players who found their way into the starting XI do enough to secure their place on the team-sheet for Sunday’s trip to Rugby Park?
Fans have been crying out for the Japanese midfielder to get an opportunity from the start for a while now. His appearances in his still fledgling Celtic career have mostly come from the bench and he has always been deployed as an option to help close out a game and secure a win, and to good effect for the most part.
For some reason, though, he could never do enough to earn a start under Brendan Rodgers, but he was finally afforded that opportunity against Hibs on Wednesday night. Iwata turned in a solid and composed defensive display at the heart of the Celtic midfield, allowing the side to prevent Hibs’ counter-attacks before they could even get going. His defensive capabilities also allowed more creative freedom for Callum McGregor and Matt O’Riley, as the two advanced midfielders controlled the game and kept the Hoops on the front foot.
With David Turnbull flattering to deceive in Perth against St Johnstone, expect Iwata to maintain his place in the team, especially considering the danger that Kilmarnock can pose.
After some impressive displays from the bench over the last few weeks, the Celtic outcast was given the chance to start against Hibs and showed a lot of the similar qualities that he had displayed in his previous cameos.
Despite the drive and energy he showed in the wide areas, however, Mikey wasn’t able to really influence the game and cause too many problems for the opposition.
That has been a recurring theme in his time at the club as, for all the flashes of brilliance he may show, the end product just hasn’t been there and Rodgers may look to deploy James Forrest or perhaps the return of a Daizen Maeda or Liel Abada on Sunday.
Kyogo Furuhashi would have been kicking himself on the Celtic bench as he sat and watched Oh Hyeon-gyu score a brace against the Hibees, and the Japanese forward passing up a guilt-edged opportunity late on would have only further frustrated him.
After his two-goal performance and the quality he showed when running at the Hibernian backline, the South Korean is undroppable and will be expected to maintain his place in the team, whether that be at the expense of Kyogo Furuhashi or not.
JAMES MCKENZIE // Follow James HERE