Not many will have noticed it yesterday, but Conor Hazard’s performance for Celtic was reassuring yesterday.
No, this isn’t about celebrating the bare-minimum. After all, he didn’t have much to do in the way of shot-stopping. However, that’s not to say he wasn’t worked against Accies.
On multiple occasions, Hazard managed to make confident, bullish catches of the ball when in the air. This was absolutely vital given Hamilton consistently tried to put the ball on his head and force errors.
It was clear they had looked to profit on this after the Hearts game last weekend. Hazard made two blunders as he wasn’t strong enough to keep out Hearts’ second and third goals. But he looked a lot more powerful and commanding at New Douglas Park yesterday.
He had to deal with a variety of different crosses too. Both drilled and floated. In addition to that, the conditions had it swirling everywhere in the air. Considering then, that WhoScored clocked him as having a 100% passing accuracy, his distribution was also impressive.
Hazard doing nothing to lose the Celtic jersey just yet
Conor continues to play on a consistent basis and has started our last five matches. All of them have ended in victories. The fact is that he isn’t doing anything that should lead to him losing his jersey either.
We know that Ibrox is coming up. Ideally Celtic would have a tried and tested shot-stopper in there against Rangers’ firepower. But the truth is we just don’t have that this season. Vasilis Barkas and Scott Bain have both disappointed and don’t deserve to come right back in.
Hazard, meanwhile, is starting to grow into his jersey. His aerial presence yesterday was massive for Celtic fans. It’s absolutely vital we see him dominating his penalty area, especially ahead of next week.
As much as Lennon won’t be looking any further than Dundee Utd on Wednesday night, it’s difficult not to look at the Ibrox clash. A win and our season is back on again. A defeat and, well, it’s going to take an absolute miracle. Put it that way.
But Hazard is going to find himself under the cosh from cross balls. Rangers like to get it to their full-backs and put teasing deliveries into the penalty box. On top of that, Alfredo Morelos is likely going to get away with murder from corner kicks and other set-pieces. Hazard has to be strong and lead from the back.
It’s going to be a massive learning curve for him. Hopefully he navigates it appropriately. But given the fact we’ve now seen him show a dominant side to his game in difficult conditions, confidence in Hazard will have grown.