BEAMING Brendan Rodgers singled out Captain Marvel Callum McGregor for special mention after the champions’ crucial 2-1 victory over Ibrox opposition at a pulsating Parkhead yesterday.
Two crackerjack strikes in each half from Paulo Bernardo and Kyogo Furuhashi propelled Celtic to an eight-point advantage at the top of the league as the curtain came down on the action for 2023.
The year kicked off on January 2 with a goal from the Japanese fans’ favourite giving the Hoops a 2-2 draw against their nearest challengers on the team’s way to a second successive crown under Ange Postecoglou.
BALL BHOY…Callum McGregor has high hopes for Celtic’s twelfth title in 13 years.
This time around, Kyogo rifled in the winner – his seventh goal against the Govan club in a calendar year – and Rodgers enjoyed his twelfth triumph in 15 derby encounters with two ending in stalemate and sampling just one loss.
The second time-around gaffer was quick to point to the overwhelming contribution from his inspirational skipper and said: “Callum’s on a different level to anyone on the pitch, with the greatest respect.
“The quality that he has, the idea of football that he has, how he leads the team is just absolutely incredible. When you need your top players to stand up, then he was there.
“I can’t speak highly enough of him. I saw him from my first time here where he contributed so well for me and this time he’s leading the team and he does lead it properly.
“It was a brilliant individual performance and I’m very, very lucky to have him here.”
THAT’S MY BHOY…Luis Palma congratulates Paulo Bernardo after the Portguese ace’s opening goal.
Rodgers complimented each of his players who put in a good shift to get a deserved triumph, but another individual who caught his particular attention was on-loan Benfica star Bernardo.
The Irishman, speaking to Celtic TV, continued: “I thought he was excellent and I thought when he came off the pitch we lost a little bit.
“I was just a bit worried that he was on a booking and he had a couple of challenges that looked like he maybe could have picked up another booking. You don’t want to go down to 10 men in these games. So we wanted to make that change.
“But it was a wonderful goal and he’s really progressing and developing well.”
Kyogo’s spectacular matchwinner within two minutes of the restart also drew applause from Rodgers who added: “That’s what great strikers do.
PARADISE…Kyogo Furuhashi accepts the acclaim of the Celtic fans after his breathtaking winning goal.
“He’s maybe not been at his best over the course of the season, but, in terms of his goals, he’s only a couple shy of where he was last year.
“But when he can produce moments like that in big games – and that’s what he tends to do – then it’s absolutely great for the team and great for the supporters.
“It was a really good move and we worked the ball well through the pitch to one side and then back again – and his movement was class.
“And when you see it again, it looks like he’s going to go in behind, but then he comes short, swivels on it and it’s a brilliant finish.”
Celtic face St Mirren in the 5pm kick-off in Paisley on Tuesday before the three-week winter break kicks in.