Could it have been ANYBODY else?

Of course, The Celtic Way’s Star Man for Sunday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final against Livingston was Daizen Maeda, as the Japan international took home the match ball for his first-ever hat-trick in Scotland.

A player who can infuriate, amaze and baffle - sometimes all in one move - Maeda was up to the task on Sunday afternoon, effectively leading the line for Brendan Rodgers’ side whilst operating on the left-hand side of the wing. It was a special day for the ever-present winger, too, as he celebrated his 100th appearance for the club with three goals.

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His opening strike – the first goal of the afternoon – was all down to his fellow wide-man Nicolas Kuhn, who can feel a tad disappointed that he is not the Star Man after putting in his best performance thus far in the colours of Celtic. Cutting inside, the German winger floated a perfectly weighted pass into the direction of the Japanese forward, finding his target perfectly in the box. Maeda took a touch, before expertly dispatching the chance from close range, as Celtic opened the scoring on what was to be an eventful game in Glasgow.

If AI could construct a perfect Maeda-esque goal, then it would probably look like his second of the afternoon, as he restored Celtic’s lead. After good work from Matt O’Riley to get a show away – forcing a save from Michael McGovern in the process – the ball dropped to the tenacious forward. Would he try and take a touch, or would he attempt to smash it home for his second conversion of the day? The answer is neither, as he threw his head at the chance, forcing McGovern to make a save. The damage was done, though, as the former Celtic youth product could not stop the ball from ending up in the back of his net.

Livingston would rally once again, so it was up to the man of the moment to step up and be counted on when the going got tough. Maeda was in the right place at the right time, as he profited off of some great work from his fellow countryman in Tomoki Iwata. Not content with the score late on in the game, the holding midfielder would take matters into his own hands, urging his right-back Alistair Johnston to honour his run with a pass down the wing, not unlike what the goalscorer would do. Getting to the by-line, Iwata played a low ball across the goal line, where none other than Maeda was waiting to pass the ball home beyond McGovern and his Livingston defenders. A great moment, which effectively won the game for Rodgers’ team thanks to some great work from the Japanese duo.

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Yes, the winger did have some off moments in the game, such as missing an open goal by letting the ball go through his legs, but that is simply the magic of Maeda. You take the rough with the smooth concerning this player, as he brings more pros than cons when stepping onto the pitch, both home and away. A player who seems to have caught the scoring bug recently, his goals may be a big helper in determining where the destination of the league and cup will be going come the end of the season. A bonus, as his work-rate and determination, are the reasons why he is getting a game most weeks for Celtic. No wonder Ange Postecoglou didn’t ever drop him, as he really does live up to the ‘We Never Stop’ mantra the Australian hammered home to his players during his tenure at the club.

Under Rodgers, he seems to have found yet another manager who appreciates and understands the hard work that Maeda gives the team in every game. Days like Sunday are rare for the winger, but he got to soak up the adulation of those in attendance, who gave him a standing ovation as he walked off the park at full-time.

A well-deserved TCW Star Man award for the winger, who lit up what was a cold and miserable Sunday afternoon with a memorable hat-trick in the Scottish Cup. Let’s hope he can keep it up, as Celtic look to pull off a domestic double in the coming months…