And the rumbustuous Greek’s all-round contribution as he bagged a third goal in only his fourth start following an opening five months of the season ruined by fitness issues moved the Celtic manager to posit that it was a performance to show why he paid £2.5m to VVV-Venlo to recruit the 27-year-old.
“He had a tough first half of the year for sure,” said Postecoglou. “[But you talk] about character and mentality.
“He worked hard to get himself fit during the little break we had. We gave the guys a few days off but he kept going along with James [Forrest] and Chris Jullien to be ready and I thought he was great.
“He scored not just a great goal but worked awfully hard and he had to because unfortunately at the moment we don’t have somebody to give him a bit of a breather towards the end. But I think he is showing people why I brought him to the football club. He has a presence about him and in the box he can score goals.’
“[The smart finish for his goal showed] his strengths. It’s a testament to his character. I said after he missed the penalty against Livingston [in the 0-0 draw in October] that that’s the burden you carry being the number nine here at Celtic. You are expected to be here for the big moments and score goals and that’s what he wants. He didn’t shy away after that happened, worked hard to get himself fit and be ready and I thought he led the line superbly.”
Postecoglou and his team, now unbeaten in 20 domestic games, have to keep ploughing forward despite whatever injury and personnel setbacks that continue to be thrown at them. Matt O’Riley was given a debut in Gorgie as he and Reo Hatate - scoring with a thumping long-range effort in only his second start - were deployed as playmaking partners in the absence of Callum McGregor, Tom Rogic and David Turnbull. “If you chart the course of this team from the first time we were here [at Tynecastle] – which people keep mentioning – the amount of challenges we’ve had means we haven’t really had a smooth run to be honest. But I don’t mind because it builds resilience and reveals character.
“It doesn’t matter what team we throw out there, the guys show that they are ready for it and enjoying and embracing the kind of team we want to be. They are not making excuses or allowances for anything and I think that’s a credit to the whole group.”