Matt O'Riley's frantic Celtic debut already has the supporters buzzing for more

By David Walton

January 26, 2022

Matt O’Riley was tonight given his Celtic debut at Tynecastle, and it’s fair to say his performance has captured the imagination of the Hoops support.

This looked like a meteoric challenge for the former MK Dons man tonight. Hearts at Tynecastle is one of the biggest powderkeg fixtures Scottish football has to offer. Yet O’Riley looked like he’d experienced 50 of them as he provided the cool head Celtic needed to replace Yosuke Ideguchi.

Photo by Alex Dodd – CameraSport via Getty Images

Celtic went into tonight’s game missing the likes of Callum McGregor, David Turnbull, and Ideguchi respectively. O’Riley’s debut would ideally have been in a calmer environment than the hostile Tynecastle atmosphere.

However, O’Riley managed to show his box-to-box attributes in the number 8 role despite the tough nature of the fiery battle.

The major talking point came when O’Riley was unfortunately penalised for handball with 20 minutes to go. However, thankfully, it was missed by Liam Boyce, and the truth is the new Bhoys deserved that slice of luck for his overall display.

Matt O’Riley a standout on a dramatic Celtic debut

The first-half performance is what set Celtic on their way to 3 points tonight. And it was in that period when O’Riley really came to the fore. Pressing high and showing good aggression when out of possession, he managed to win a couple of turnovers to help unnerve the Tynecastle men.

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It was also extremely promising to see how many goalscoring positions he was getting into in both halves too. Before Hearts pulled themselves back into the match, the midfielder was finding pockets of space in and around the Jambos box to get a few shots away.

It’s fair to say his influence did wane in the final 25 minutes or so when the game started to get chaotic. But you could see the composure he brought to our play for the vast majority of the game. O’Riley was cool in the pass, threatening in the final third, and didn’t let the occasion get to him.

You couldn’t not be impressed with how O’Riley dealt with the whole occasion tonight. It’s a shame he pulled up in the closing stages, but hopefully it’s just cramp and nothing more.

Even so, the supporters have been quick to acknowledge what he brought to the table tonight as they hailed his display on Twitter:

In other news, Ange Postecoglou explains why he’s handed Matt O’Riley his Celtic debut at Tynecastle