Maeda scores on debut as Celtic beat Hibernian
Japanese forward Daizen Maeda scored in just the fourth minutes of his debut as Celtic beat Hibernian 2-0 on Monday in a match that marked the resumption of the Scottish Premiership.
Josip Juranovic was also on target, with a first-half penalty, as Celtic moved to within three points of leaders and arch Glasgow rivals Rangers ahead of the champions' match away to Aberdeen on Tuesday.
Rather than play matches behind closed doors, officials brought forward the scheduled winter break in Scottish football's top flight last month in response to a surge in the Omicron strain of the coronavirus.
After the Scottish government relaxing restrictions on attendance at sporting events, Celtic's three Japanese signings in the current transfer window were able to make their debuts in front of the Hoops' loyal fans.
Reo Hatate also made his first start and Yosuke Ideguchi came off the bench while their compatriot Kyogo Furuhashi remained sidelined with a hamstring injury.
The Japanese trio all began their careers with the Glasgow giants in a comfortable win.
"I think we were in control for the whole 90 minutes," Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou told the BBC. "We started the game with really good energy and tempo and we could have had one or two more if we weren't as wasteful."
The Australian added: "Second half we didn't create as much but we were still in control, that's the balancing act of having a few weeks break, they were fresh and ready but maybe a bit rusty in a few areas."
Hibs counterpart Shaun Maloney said: "It was a big test for our players with Celtic going ahead early.
"We need to be more aggressive when we do get through their line of pressure, but that's for me to work on, I'm the coach."
- 'Big chance' -
Edinburgh club Hibs should have opened the scoring but Kevin Nisbet's shot hit the post.
"It's a big chance but Kevin's been excellent for me," said Maloney, whose side remained fifth in the table.
"That's what strikers do, some they take, some they miss some and in big games like this, it is very fine margins."
That miss was punished swiftly after Josh Campbell lost the ball to Liel Abada.
Juranovic and Tom Rogic combined before unmarked centre-forward Maeda's shot went in off goalkeeper Matt Macey.
Celtic doubled their lead in the 25th minute when Josh Doig was penalised for handball by referee Willie Collum after Abada flicked the ball up in the air.
Juranovic scored from the spot after sending Macey the wrong way.
Hatate showed flashed of brilliance before the break and in the second half he too might have had a debut goal only to scuff a shot wide.
Abada hit the post from close range and midfielder Ideguchi hit the wall with a free-kick before Celtic saw out the game.
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