Matt O'Riley x Kyogo Furuhashi: The Celtic chemical reaction that brings best out of Dane - 'it's pretty easy, trust me'

Matt O’Riley has taken most of the Celtic plaudits this season for his exceptional performances in midfield.

The 22-year-old’s burgeoning reputation was enhanced further on Wednesday night with a man-of-the match display in the 2-2 Champions League draw against Atletico Madrid. He was a commanding presence among illustrious opponents and his assist for Celtic’s opening goal on four minutes had football purists purring for the way he sliced through the Spanish team’s defence with a knifed pass to Kyogo Furuhashi. O’Riley, though, is the first to admit that the Japanese forward is helping him play at his best. Their relationship verges on telepathic.

“It comes very naturally at this point,” O’Riley said on his relationship with Furuhashi. “Most of my assists last season came through him just because his movement is so good, and it is so easy to play with him. So, as soon as he passed me the ball I knew where he was going to be, and it was just a case of executing the pass.

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“I think there is a natural chemistry there between us. Good players kind of understand each other quite naturally, and the more you play with someone, then naturally, the better the understanding. But he makes it really, really easy for me because his movement is so good. I probably see the game in a certain way, and he sees it in a similar way in terms of his movement, so it just clicks really well.”

Matt O'Riley and Kyogo Furuhashi celebrate the Japanese's opening goal against Atletico Madrid.Matt O'Riley and Kyogo Furuhashi celebrate the Japanese's opening goal against Atletico Madrid.
Matt O'Riley and Kyogo Furuhashi celebrate the Japanese's opening goal against Atletico Madrid.

Celtic’s opening goal was a thing of beauty, from the way Daizen Maeda headed the ball into space from a chipped pass to set O’Riley and Furuhashi on their way. Was it engineered at the club’s Lennoxtown training base? “Nah, some things just happen,” revealed O’Riley. “You’ve got to be as brave and as open on the pitch as possible, especially against a team that is so good defensively. You need to somehow spark a little bit of something with a little bit of creativity that comes from somewhere like the back of your mind, I’m not really sure. If you come from that place of openness where you’re not scared of making a mistake, then naturally you feel more comfortable just trying stuff like that.

“I’ve watched it back, and I think the space was actually quite big to play it into, but when it’s coming at that speed in the game it might not look as if it is that easy. But when you are playing with Kyogo, it’s pretty easy, trust me!”

Celtic’s second goal against Atletico wasn’t bad either, with Honduran winger Luis Palma slamming ball home to with the kind of composed finish required at elite level. It was redemption for Palma given he had a goal against Lazio chalked off in agonising circumstances last time out in the competition. “It’s great for him, he’s doing really well,” O’Riley said of his team-mate. “I think he’s come in and really showed his quality early on. There’s still a lot more to come from him I’m sure, but I’m happy he got his goal. He’s got that persona about him which kind of oozes confidence, which is good. That is what you need to be a winger at Celtic, obviously, so we’ll see how he progresses.”



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