A RAMPANT Kyogo Furuhashi led Celtic back to the Premiership pinnacle with an unstoppable performance against the overwhelmed Perth outfit at Parkhead this afternoon.

It will remain a mystery there were only two goals between the teams at full-time after the visitors had been pummelled by the champions as the rain cascaded from the grey skies.

Kyogo got the ball rolling with the opener, had two others disallowed and crashed one off the bar as he showed why he is the man to lead the Hoops through the crucial countdown to the league and Cup crescendo.

Nicolas Kuhn and substitute James Forrest joined in with the other strikes whle Alistair Johnston had one ruled out that looked decidedly dodgy. Perhaps a toenail had strayed offside.

The best of the early chances came in the 17th minute when Tomoki Iwata found Kuhn in the clear with just Dimitar Mitov to beat, but his touch wasn’t crisp and Luke Robinson responded to clear the threat.

Daizen Maeda and Kyogo looked lively as they raced into threatening positions, but either the delivery wasn’t up to the expected standard or the visiting defenders were swift to snuff out the danger.

The Hoops were so much in control that Joe Hart was almost in the centre circle to acccept passes and keep the ball circulating.

BREAKTHROUGH STRIKE…Kyogo Furuhashi celebrates his 15th goal of the season to open the scoring against St Johnstone at Parkhead.

There was a call for a penalty-kick in the 26th minute when a close-range shot from Maeda hit the arm of a Saints defender on the line following a scramble after a right-wing corner-kick delivery from Matt O’Riley.

VAR, with Chris Graham in front of the multi-screens, reviewed the incident before dismissing the claims and referee Euan Anderson had no requirement to point to the spot.

It would have been a harsh penalty-kick decision, but after the controversy at Tynecastle last weekend there would have been no room for complaint from the Saints if it had been awarded.

Three minutes later, Kyogo blazed over the crossbar from an angle and the hosts’ dreadful luck continued when Robinson hacked a drive from Iwata off the line in the 32nd minute.

Undeterred, the champions maintained a steady procession towards Mitov and in the 35th minute Kyogo flicked a left-wing cross into the net from close range after a neat pass from Paulo Bernardo on the left.

The celebrations of the Hoops players and the fans were interrupted by the standside assistant’s flag and the effort was wiped out for offside. VAR images showed the Japanese ace had strayed just off before the ball arrived invitingly in front of him.

Two cleared off the line, a goal ruled out for offside and a VAR penalty-kick decision denial must have had the Hoops wondering if they were staging an action replay of the frustarting scoreless stalemate in August.

Five minutes from the interval, thankfully, the hosts claimed the breakthrough goal and it was no surprise when the man who achieved the feat was the eager Kyogo.

The pacy hitman, making his first start in three games, timed his run into the box to perfection to meet an immaculate right-wing cross from Kuhn to send a header flashing into the net beyond the stranded Mitov.

PARADISE…Nicolas Kuhn claimed his first goal at Parkhead.

Only moments later, Kyogo again menaced the keeper with a quick dart to the near post to get on the end of a Johnston ball, but his effort was diverted for a corner-kick.

It was all one-way as Celtic piled on the pressure and Kyogo was denied another goal when he tucked in one from close-range after snapping onto a header across the box from Maeda.

Once again the flag went up, VAR checked the validity and pictures showed Maeda was offside before making contact to set up his compatriot.

So, the hosts had to be content with a solitary goal lead at the interval while the Perth outfit rode their luck in a backs-to-the-wall display.

Forty-one seconds into the second-half, the Hoops doubled their advantage as Kuhn claimed his first goal at Parkhead.

Kyogo was alert as ever to race onto a clever pass from Greg Taylor and the Japanese frontman whipped a low ball across from the left.

Kuhn was totally unmarked as he materialised at the back post to fire into the vacant net.

Kyogo was out of luck again in the 52nd minute when he accepted an astute pass from O’Riley to swivel and thunder and unstoppable drive high past the static Mitov, but, alas, the effort clattered off the face of the crossbar and ricocheted to safety.

Next up, the Bulgarian keeper pulled off a stunning save to touch a cunning angled free-kick from O’Riley past the post.

In the 63rd minute, Kuhn and Bernardo were replaced by Forrest and Daniel Kelly as Celtic maintained the onslaught.

Five minutes later, evergreen Forrest walloped in the third goal with a lightning left-foot drive from just inside the box. Maeda won the ball on the left and it was transferred onto O’Riley.

The Danish onternational whipped it across the box and there was the veteran winger to crash an unsaveable effort wide of Mitov to his left.

In the 75th minute, Kyogo went off to a standing ovation as Adam Idah was introduced at the same time as Odin Holm came on for Cameron Carter-Vickers.

Iwata moved to central defence to partner Stephen Welsh while Holm took the Japanese ace’s role in midfield.

In the 81st minute, totally against the run of play, the Saints pulled one back to stun everyone in the vicinity. Hart pulled off a remarkable reflex save from a Stevie May header, but the ball fell perfectly for Connor Smith to fire high into the net.

Three minutes later, raiding right-back Johnston drilled a ferocious angled drive past the bewildered Mitov, but it was chalked off for offside by VAR.

It must have been by the slenderest of margins, but that had been the story for the champions in this encounter.

Gustaf Lagerbielke came on for O’Riley in the 88th minute as the game drew to a close.

The last chance of the confrontation fell to Iwata at the back post following a right-wing corner-kick, but somehow he managed to scoop the ball over the bar from four yards.

Job done and Celtic can now enjoy the international break and come back prepared to the visit to Livingston in a fortnight.

TEAM: Hart; Johnston, Carter-Vickers (sub: Holm 75), Welsh, Taylor; Bernardo (sub: Kelly 63), O’Riley (sub: Lagerbielke 88), Iwata; Kuhn (sub: Forrest 63), Kyogo (sub: Idah 75), Maeda.

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