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Furuhashi double fires Celtic to crucial win over Rangers

AFP
Sunday, Apr 09, 2023

GLASGOW: Celtic moved within touching distance of the Scottish Premiership title as Kyogo Furuhashi’s double inspired a dramatic 3-2 win against Rangers in Saturday’s Old Firm derby.

Furuhashi has been Celtic’s catalyst for much of the campaign and the Japan forward was the key again with his team’s opener in a frenetic clash at Parkhead.

Rangers captain James Tavernier equalised with a superb free-kick before dismal defending from the visitors handed Celtic second half goals for Furuhashi and Jota.

Tavernier’s second took him to 100 goals for Rangers, but Celtic survived an anxious finish to claim a third victory over their bitter rivals this season.

Ange Postecoglou’s side sit 12 points clear of second placed Rangers with seven games left as they look to retain the title.

They are on the verge of securing an 11th title in the last 12 seasons and could yet enjoy more success at Rangers’ expense, with a Scottish Cup semi-final date set for April 30.

Celtic had won the most recent Old Firm showdown in the Scottish League Cup final in February and are now unbeaten in six successive league derbies.

There were no Rangers fans allowed into Parkhead due to safety concerns, but the atmosphere generated by the 60,000 crowd was still at fever pitch by kick-off in the east end of Glasgow.

Celtic thought they had made a dream start when Alastair Johnston’s lofted pass reached Furuhashi, who poked through the legs of Allan McGregor, only to see his celebrations curtailed by a correct offside call.

Rangers were denied in more controversial circumstances when Alfredo Morelos stabbed in at the far post from a corner, with Kevin Clancy disallowing the goal for the Colombian’s contact with Johnston as the pair jostled for the ball.

That proved a crucial moment as Celtic broke the deadlock in the 26th minute.

Matt O’Riley cut his pass back to the middle of the penalty area, where Furuhashi took a deft touch as he swivelled to plant a clinical finish past McGregor.

Against the run of play, Rangers drew level on the stroke of half-time after O’Riley slid in to foul Malik Tillman. Tavernier made O’Riley pay as he curled a sublime 25-yard free-kick past Joe Hart via the underside of the crossbar, reducing Parkhead to stunned silence for the first time all afternoon.

Hart plunged to his right to deny Morelos after sloppy Celtic defending presented a golden opportunity to the Rangers striker straight after the interval.

Morelos was stopped by his own team-mate from the resulting corner when his goalbound shot was inadvertently blocked by Ryan Jack.

But just as Rangers had seized the momentum, it was snatched away from them in the 62nd minute.

Michael Beale’s team had only themselves to blame as Ben Davies miscued a clearance in his own six-yard box and tried to rescue the situation with a panicked header that bounced off Jota for Furuhashi to fire home from close-range.

The frenzied Celtic celebrations on the pitch and in the stands underlined the significance of Furuhashi’s 28th goal in all competitions this season.

If the second goal was a gift from Rangers, then Celtic’s third in the 73rd minute came thanks to more woeful defending.

John Souttar’s weak backpass was well short of McGregor, allowing Jota to nip in and slot into the empty net from an acute angle.

Rangers refused to surrender and Tavernier got one back in the 79th minute, arriving at the far post to meet Borna Barisic’s cross with a powerful header that gave Hart no chance.

In a tense finale, Tavernier was inches away from rescuing Rangers with another header, but this time the defender’s effort flashed wide.