CELTIC 4 ST MIRREN 0
CRACKSHOT Kyogo Furuhashi fired in a double to take his goal tally to 18 as Celtic overwhelmed the Paisley side at Parkhead tonight.
Liel Abada got the opener and David Turnbull capped the romp with a fourth as the champions maintained their praiseworthy 100 per cent home Premiership record.
The triumph also kept the Hoops at the pinnacle with a nine-point advantage after their nearest challengers had a 3-2 win over 10-man Kilmarnock – who had Danny Armstrong dismissed before the hour mark – at Rugby Park.
IT TAKES TWO…Kyogo Furuhashi and Reo Hatate celebrate a Celtic goal.
Celtic had a score to settle against Stephen Robinson’s side as the only Scottish team to beat them in this crusade after the unexpected setback in September.
It was a case of Beauty v The Beast with the champions attempting to play their attractive and intricate passing game against a team who are far from being easy on the eye and arrived in Glasgow with no intention of adding to the entertainment factor.
They scrapped and snarled right from the kick-off and Ange Postecoglou’s men had to work for their three points in their quest for a second successive title.
Yuki Kobayashi made his debut and slotted in to the middle of the rearguard as though he had been a regular for years. It’s early, of course, but the J-League recruit already looks an assured performer who will prove to be a plus at the Hoops.
There was a scare in the 11th minute when Curtis Main capitalised on some sloppy defensive work following a long throw-in from Joe Shaugnessy to flick the ball past Joe Hart from close range.
The striker, though, was flagged offside and, thankfully, VAR assistant Andrew Dallas agreed with match official Steve McLean. Images later proved there was no doubt about the judgement.
THE OPENER…Liel Abada races away in triumph after thumping the Hoops into the lead.
Four minutes later, Scotland’s title kings took the lead. Matt O’Riley flighted over a right-wing corner-kick, Carl Starfelt had a first-time effort pushed away by keeper Trevor Carson, Kobayashi followed up to hit the right-hand post and ball ricocheted to Liel Abada who first-timed a ferocious volley into the net.
In 17 minutes, Hart denied Jonah Ayunga with a flying save as the Paisley forward fired in an angled drive that looked to be zeroing into the top corner.
The keeper threw himself full-length to his right to get a hand to the swirling attempt to claw it to safety.
Starfelt, playing in an unaccustomed right-sided role, created panic with a misplaced pass across the pitch which went straight to Ayunga, but Kobayashi showed astute qualities, refused to dive into a tackle and then blocked the shot.
In the 35th minute, Kyogo doubled the Hoops’ advantage with a mesmerising finish from a stupendous through ball from Reo Hatate.
The Japanese double-act combined with almost telepathic ability with the midfielder placing the ball into space and the striker timing his run to absolute perfection to loft the ball over the stranded Carson into the net.
AIR WE GO…Kyogo Furuhashi leaves St Mirren keeper Trevor Carson standing with a wonderful lob for the second goal on their way to three points.
It was checked by VAR and, once again, the decision by the whistler was spot on.
Eight minutes after the break, Hatate and Filipe Jota combined with the Portuguese flyer whipping over an inviting cross.
Yet again, Kyogo’s timing was immaculate as he raced in to the box to turn the ball past the helpless Carson from close range for No.3.
It was checked by VAR and once more technology proved the goal was legitimate.
Declan Gallagher showed the Saints hadn’t thrown in the towel when he rose to a Ryan Strain right-wing cross to thump in a header that bounced off the top of the crossbar with Hart again at full stretch.
In the 70th minute, Postecoglou made a triple switch when he took off Abada, O’Riley and Hatate and put on James Forrest, David Turnbull and Aaron Mooy.
Three minutes later, Forrest had the ball in the net with his first touch following a swift break and ball across from Kyogo on the left. The assistant was quick with his flag, VAR reviewed the incident and ruled it out. It was an extremely tight decision and, on this occasion, it went against Celtic.
HART STOPPER…keeper Joe Hart flies through the air to push away an effort from Jonah Ayunga.
Kyogo and Jota were replaced by Daizen Maeda and Sead Haksabanovic in the 80th minute as the Celtic manager emphasised the quality he has at his disposal.
Turnbull brought down the curtain on a fine display by the hosts with a brilliant strike for the fourth goal in the 86th minute.
Haksabanovic took a swift corner-kick on the left and picked out Mooy. The Aussie squared the ball across to Turnbull who took aim before blasting a low 30-yarder past Carson at his right-hand post.
To cap a fine all-round evening for Postecoglou’s side, Hart made another quite superb save from an Alex Gogic first-timer. Once again, he got up to push the ball to safety in excellent athletic fashion.
Four goals and a clean sheet. Not a bad night’s work for the champions.
TEAM: Hart; Johnston, Starfelt, Kobayashi, Juranovic; O’Riley (sub: Turnbull 70), McGregor, Hatate (sub: Mooy 70); Abada (sub: Forrest 70), Kyogo (sub: Maeda 80), Jota (sub: Haksabanovic 80).