BRENDAN RODGERS applauded Kyogo Furuhashi’s cunning and shrewdness as he ended his frustrating barren sequence with the opening strike in the 2-0 win over Livingston at Parkhead.
The Japanese hitman had fired blanks in seven successive outings before he claimed the crucial breakthrough effort against the suffocating West Lothian outfit exactly 28 SECONDS after the turnaround.
Kyogo timed his run to absolute perfection to steal between two visiting defenders to get on the end of a low left-wing cross from the tricky Luis Palma to touch the ball past keeper Jack Hamilton.
Livi’s shocked back-four operators immediately appealed for offside, but images proved the pacy forward had been played on by two players as he made his timely dart into space.
HAVING A BALL…Kyogo Furuhashi after netting the opening goal against Livingston.
The relief on Kyogo’s face as he retrieved the ball from the net and planted a massive kiss on it told its own story as he celebrated his eighth goal of the campaign.
A beaming Rodgers, following two dismal defeats from Kilmarnock and Hearts, said: “It’s about the team, but, of course, a striker wants to get goals.
“I think Kyogo is only three short of where he was last season, but he will feel he could – and should – have scored more goals.
“That was an important goal for us and, as a striker, he stayed onside very cleverly and he got an important touch.”
The Hoops gaffer, who is now preparing his squad for the trip to Dens Park to face Dundee on Boxing Day, also praised defender Liam Scales who added a quickfire second with a glancing header following some more excellent service from Palma, this time from a corner-kick on the left.
ONSIDE…Kyogo Furuhashi prepares to swoop as Luis Palma delivers the pass.
PICK IT OUT…Kyogo fires in the opening goal from close range.
HANDS UP IF YOU’VE SCORED…Kyogo celebrates while the Livi players appeal in vain for offside.
Rodgers said: “With Scales, we did some work on set-pieces as, for and against, I felt we could be much better and it was a great ball and run.”
Reflecting on the overall performance from the champions, the Irishman, speaking to Celtic TV, said: “We created lots of chances, but I don’t think the players got the goals they deserved.
“We started the game very well in the first 20 minutes and we had some misses.
“We just needed to keep that perseverance and in the second-half we came out and got the goal from Kyogo which settled things down.
“It’s a really good win in a difficult week for the players.
“When you lose two games as a Celtic player and manager it can be tough, but you have the opportunity to bounce back and the players did that.
“You can’t be comfortable in any game and you need to impose your style and the players did that.”
Rodgers continued: “The players were very hungry and they played with that bit of anger which brings up the intensity.
“Everything was good about the game and anything that came forward the defenders were strong in winning the first ball.
“Our only complaint was that we didn’t score the goals we could have done, but all around it was a good win for us.”
FIGHTING TALK…Brendan Rodgers reckons anger raised Celtic’s performance. Image courtesy Celtic TV.
After the game on Tayside, the Hoops will host Philippe Clement’s Ibrox side in the second derby of the campaign on Saturday and bring down the curtain on the first half of the season with the 5pm kick-off against St Mirren in Paisley on Monday January 2.
The winter break kicks in the following day and then holders are back in action when they welcome Highland side Buckie Thistle to the east end of Glasgow in the Scottish Cup fourth round tie on Sunday January 21.
Rodgers added: “December is a real grind of a month with lots of games and recovery, but the expectation is to get results and we fell short of that.
“On this occasion, we were much more like ourselves with that determination and they get the results.
“They can have a quiet Christmas with the family and we are back in on Christmas Day to prepare for Dundee as we look to get the points up there.”