Football

Strachan: Naka can handle rough stuff

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Celtic manager Gordon Strachan refuted the idea the heavy-handed treatment handed out by Kilmarnock in Wednesday night's Co-operative Insurance Cup quarter-final win will affect Shunsuke Nakamura's decision about his Parkhead future.

The Japan international has hinted he may want to return to his homeland, and J-League club Yokohama Marinos - for whom Nakamura made his professional debut in 1997 - will attempt to sign the 30-year-old midfielder in January ahead of their 2009 season.

Afterwards Strachan praised the durability of Nakamura, saying: "I don't think things like that will make Naka want to go back. He is bigger and stronger than anything that anybody can chuck at him, that's for sure. He stiffened up and did well to last to half-time."

In a tetchy game in Ayrshire, Nakamura suffered some heavy tackles by the Killie players after Scott McDonald headed Celtic into a 15th-minute lead.

He was booked by referee Craig Thomson for complaining about the treatment he was receiving before curling a free-kick past Alan Combe in the dying seconds of the first half.

Nakamura failed to appear for the second half after picking up an injury just above the knee and is fighting to be fit for the Clydesdale Bank Premier League match against Hearts at Tynecastle on Sunday.

Danny Invincibile pulled a goal back for Killie in the 67th minute but Aiden McGeady quickly restored Celtic's two-goal lead to take them into the last four alongside Rangers, Falkirk and Dundee United.

Strachan added: "He was very brave and it's crazy in this day and age that Naka is the one that gets booked.

"He reacted by saying he got tackled and he pointed four times. The referee obviously booked him because it was only three.

"If he is going to complain about tackles then he has to get it right! What Naka did was put the ball down and put it in the back of the net. That's the best way of answering anybody who wants to take you out of the game."

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Topics:
Internationals
Football
Scott McDonald
Gordon Strachan
Danny Invincibile
Alan Combe

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