THE boos and jeers that reverberated around the stadium performed a sweet symphony to the ears of Brendan Rodgers.

The Celtic manager stood transfixed on the touchline as his players resolutely guarded Joe Hart as they dug in for a crucial and memorable win.

On September 3 2023, the partizan 50,000 crowd – without a Hoops fan in sight – vented their frustration as the visitors defied the hosts to hold onto Kyogo Furuhashi’s moment of inspiration just before the interval when he first-timed an unstoppable drive from the edge of the box low past keeper Jack Butland.

Try as they might, Michael Beale’s side had no answer to that extraordinary strike that lifted the champions four points ahead after only four league games.

GOVAN GLEE…Brendan Rodgers celebrates Kyogo Furuhashi’s winner on September 3.

Afterwards, Rodgers beamed brightly. The Irishman had been taking charge of the Hoops for the sixth time in enemy territory and had succeeded in five of that impressive sequence – the solitary blemish coming in a 1-0 loss in December 2018.

The manager realised it was imperative his players responded to the League Cup exit at Kilmarnock a fortnight earlier and the drab goalless draw with St Johnstone at Parkhead the previous weekend.

On this occasion, they stood shoulder to shoulder to get the job done – and the fact they had succeeded was reflected in the furious racket that engulfed the stadium at full-time.

Rodgers smiled: “I feel very happy for everyone, first of all the players who put in a huge effort.

“I thought in the first-half we played some great football. We probably lacked a bit of cleanness and finesse in the final third just to exploit that and in the second-half we had to show resilience.

“You’re here at Ibrox and you understand there’s going to be pressure, but we had some really good chances in the second-half, as well, that could have put the game to bed – and just didn’t quite make it.

“But, overall, to keep a clean sheet here and to get the win, it’s amazing for the players and the supporters.

“I said to the players before coming out: ‘Guys, I know we’re a young squad, but I need you to play like men today’.

“They showed that courage and, to a man, they gave everything, especially in the second-half. They threw their bodies on the line and Joe made a couple of very good saves for us.”

WALLOP…Kyogo Furuhashi thumps in the winner at Ibrox with rivals John Souttar and Connor Goldson getting a close-up view at the Japanese ace’s finishing skills.

PICK IT OUT…Jack Butland is helpless as the ball zips into the net.

Rodgers continued: “We couldn’t quite connect the game in the second-half, but we still carried a threat on the counter-attack. They were absolutely brilliant.

“When you consider what this group is missing in terms of players, but not just players, influential players, to come here and show that desire and drive to get a result is really impressive.

“So, it’s a big moment for the squad – they can feel what it’s like to get this win and I’m really happy for them.”

Kyogo snapped up the only goal of the encounter when he latched onto a forward header from Matt O’Riley, another tireless performer in the green and white, after he had intercepted a clearance from Connor Goldson following a lengthy goal-kick from the impressive Hart.

The Japanese speedster raced away before thumping an exquisite low right-foot 20-yard shot away from the diving Butland in the second minute of first-half stoppage time.

JOY BHOYS…Liel Abada congratulates Kyogo Furuhashi on his memorable strike.

Rodgers added: “What was great about the goal was that I said to the players – it’s something that gets lost in the game, the dirty bits of the game.

“We scored a goal against Ross County like it – the ball gets played forward and we win the first ball and the second ball, and then we’re in. The same happened here in this game.

“We were defending a goal-kick and Matt O’Riley makes a great header to win it and by winning it, he puts Kyogo away and then the finish is sublime.

“He’s taken it very early and against a really good keeper in Jack Butland he’s finished it so well. And probably he had one other moment in the first-half when he was in on goal and we all expected him to score.

“Then in the second-half, as well, he chopped inside when he was away. But he carries such a threat. His running ability and his energy is super.

“In football, you can’t play perfectly all the time. We want to create opportunities and we want to score, but when you have those days when maybe you are away from home and you’re under pressure, you have to show that resilience. And they had that in bucketloads on this occasion.

“So, I’m so happy for the players. I think they’ve been on death watch by the media for the last week or so, coming into this game.

“But for me, as a coach, it was about staying calm, working the players and knowing that they’re going to grow and develop. This is a big part of the development – to come and win away at Ibrox.”

OOPS…James Forrest sees a shot beat Hibs keeper David Marshall – only to edge past the post.

Celtic embarked on a five-game winning run in the Premiership before hitting the buffers in a scoreless stalemate against Hibs at Easter Road where the nearest they came to making a breakthrough against their former keeper David Marshall was a close-range effort from James Forrest that clattered off the crossbar late in the contest.

The champions picked up the winning thread when Oh Hyeon-gyu hammered in the points-clincher against St Mirren in a 2-1 triumph in Glasgow on November 1.

That was followed with a solid 3-0 success at Ross County and then a rampant 6-0 home performance against Aberdeen where South Korean new Bhoy Yang Hyun-gyu displayed more than a glimpse of the form that enticed the Hoops to bring him to Scotland.

But there was a setback lurking around the corner when Jon Abike bundled in a delivery from a left-wing corner-kick to give Motherwell a last-minute 1-1 draw at Parkhead on November 25.

And a double disaster awaited as the season ticked down towards the turn of the year.

* TOMORROW: Don’t miss the seventeenth instalment of the remarkable Brendan Rodgers Story so far.


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