Perhaps the only time Celtic looked in any trouble during the League Cup Final was just after Rangers scored to reduce the Hoops lead to 2-1. The Ibrox side enjoyed some possession in threatening areas, as Celtic were guilty of giving the ball away and making too many unforced errors.
Thankfully that period of play didn’t last long, and the Hoops comfortably saw out the later stages of the game, and a big reason for that was the substitutes made by Ange Postecoglou.
One player who was particularly good for the Hoops in his Hampden Park cameo was midfielder Tomoki Iwata. The 25-year-old was excellent for the Bhoys in only his fourth appearance for Celtic, as he helped the club control the midfield, and stifle any threat from Rangers.
In fact, so good was Iwata’s performance for the Hoops, that he might well have played his way into contention for more playing time for the Bhoys.
It should be remembered that Iwata was named as the Player of the Year in Japan last season, and his qualities were certainly shown in his time on the pitch at Hampden Park.
Celtic’s midfield is probably the strongest area of the squad, and that was shown in the cup final when the likes of Reo Hatate and Callum McGregor controlled the game for the vast majority of the 90 minutes. And when something different was needed for the Bhoys, Iwata came in and helped the Hoops control the last 15 minutes of the game plus injury time.
It will be interesting to see just how much playing time Iwata gets for the Hoops in the last few months of the season. The Bhoys have some tough games in the next few weeks, against St Mirren and a double header against Hearts.
It would be a big ask maybe to start Iwata in those games, but then he did show in the cameo at Hampden just how good a player he can be. There is though a difference between starting a game and playing the last 15 to 20 minutes of a game.
However, with that performance at Hampden you can see why Ange Postecoglou brought the midfielder to the club, and he could well be a major player for Celtic next season, as this season the Hoops midfield seems to be set for the most part as Callum McGregor, Reo Hatate and Aaron Mooy.
Iwata should be proud of how he performed though, and it bodes well for how the player will perform during the rest of his Celtic career which will hopefully be successful.