RANGERS 2 CELTIC 2
KYOGO FURUHASHI cracked the Ibrox code to score his first goal against the Govan club to give Celtic a draw.
The prolific Japanese hitman has fired blanks against Celtic’s city neighbours, but came up with the perfect answer to make sure the champions retained their nine-point advantage at the Premiership pinnacle.
The Hoops had taken an early lead through Daizen Maeda, but some atrocious defending – with substitute Josip Juranovic the main culprit – gifted the home side the advantage after the turnaround.
Ryan Kent and James Tavernier, with yet another penalty-kick, had Michael Beale’s side leading with two minutes of the regulation 90 minutes to play. Time was slipping away as the visitors mounted an attack on the left.
Filipe Jota, who had replaced Maeda just 11 minutes earlier, gave Tavernier the slip as he set up Aaron Mooy on the touchline. His cross from the left was touched on, Jota got involved again and the ball fell to Giorgos Giakoumakis and Kyogo found himself umarked around the penalty spot.
He simply walloped a mighty drive past the scrambling Allan McGregor to make sure the Hoops did not throw away three points at the home of their nearest challengers.
PROVING A POINT…Kyogo Furuhashi with the ball as he celebrates his goal.
However, it is doubtful if boss Ange Postecoglou will have been overly impressed by his team on this occasion.
There were far too many misplaced passes littered throughout the 97 minutes and there was a distinct lack of composure shown by too many of his players.
Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley toiled and so, too, did James Forrest. It was no surprise that all three were hooked after the interval.
Juranovic came on for hamstring victim Greg Taylor in the 21st minute and had a performance to forget. It is clear the Croatian right-back is not comfortable on the left and the Ibrox side tried to capitalise on his hesitancy in the second-half.
The point was earned with the team’s refusal to give up, but they can play better than this.
There were only five minutes on the clock when the champions took the lead through the jet-heeled Maeda.
The Japanese Bhoy intercepted a wayward crossfield pass from Alfredo Morelos and simply took off in the direction of the opposition’s goal.
He skipped away from Tavernier, turned on the afterburners to leave Conor Goldston in his slipstream and calmly sidefooted the ball under the advancing keeper for a superb opening goal.
PICK IT OUT…dazzling Daizen Maeda slips the ball past Allan McGregor to present Celtic with a fifth-minute opener at Ibrox.
It was a wonderfully controlled finish from the darting raider to present the visitors with the perfect start to 2023.
The hosts were desperate to claw back the Hoops’ nine-point advantage and that was highlighted in only 15 seconds when Kent fired in a low 25-yarder. Joe Hart was quick to react to dive to his left for a comfortable save.
Callum McGregor joined the attack in the 14th minute to send in a wicked effort from 25 yards. It looked as though it might just creep in at the post, but his namesake got down to turn it away for a corner-kick.
The visitors were forced into an early change when Taylor, who had been a doubt for the game, limped off to be replaced by Juranovic, making his first appearance since the World Cup Finals.
A minute later, Maeda, who was terrorising Tavernier on the left, whipped in an inviting low cross, but O’Riley’s finish was wayward and well off target.
An uncharacteristic slip in concentration from Hart almost allowed the Ibrox outfit back into the game.
The experienced Hoops keeper dallied on the ball and his clearance was blocked by Morelos. The ball spun into the air and was knocked back to Kent on the edge of the box.
He let go with a sizzling effort, but the shotstopper atoned for his original error by getting down to his left and nudging the ball onto the base of the upright.
The ball rebounded to Fashion Sakala, but his drive was blocked by Carl Starfelt and the danger passed.
The slackness in the keeper’s play was also copied by several of his team-mates as passes went astray. Postecoglou, standing with his arms crossed at the dug-out, did not look too convinced when possession was surrendered time and time again.
Debut Bhoy Alistair Johnston was fitting in well and was linking up with Forrest as the visitors raided on the right.
Kyogo had the opportunity to net a second, but the Japanese hitman had a fresh-air swipe from 12 yards after a clever cross from Forrest and the home side breathed a sigh of relief.
Then the game turned on its head in six crazy minutes after the turnaround.
The Hoops presented their rivals with the equaliser and Juranovic had to accept responsibility. Keeper McGregor launched a long ball down the Hoops’ left and the World Cup defender was all over the place as the ball landed at the feet of Sakala.
He switched the ball to Kent on the left-hand side of the box and he cut in onto his right foot and curled an unstoppable effort wide of the hurtling Hart.
Juranovic showed he had not learned his lesson when he allowed Sakala to again run away from him into the box only moments later.
Starfelt had a rush of blood to the head as he threw himself into a lunging tackle on the winger.
Down went the opponent and referee John Beaton was swift to point to the spot. It was a calamitous bit of defending from the Swede.
Tavernier hammered the award high into the top right-hand corner of Hart’s net with the Celt again left without a chance.
Just after the hour mark, Postecoglou made an antipated double change when he took off Forrest and O’Riley, who had been struggling, and put on Liel Abada and Mooy.
NO PENALTY…Connor Goldson looks to be handling Carl Starfelt’s shot, but neither referee John Beaton nor his VAR assistant Willie Collum saw anything wrong.
In the 64th minute, Celtic were denied what looked like a stonewall penalty-kick after Goldson, with hands high above his head, deflected a Starfelt shot following a Mooy corner-kick from the left.
It certainly looked as though the central defender had cleared the ball with his hand, but, remarkably, Willie Collum, in the VAR studio, didn’t see anything wrong and the home side escaped. Referee Beaton was not even instructed to have a look at the flashpoint on the touchline monitor. Bizarre.
There was another handball shout five minutes later when Goldson again got an arm to a Hatate shot, but this time it did look completely accidental. VAR looked at the incident and once again there was no penalty. No-one was surprised.
A courageous and timely lunge from Carter-Vickers blocked a shot from Malik Tillman which could have ended the game there and then. The Ibrox midfielder was in a great position in front of the exposed Hart, but the resolute centre-back flew into a challenge and diverted the danger.
Jota and Giakoumakis made their entry to the game in the 77th minute when they replaced Maeda and Hatate.
It turned out to be a stroke of genius from Postecoglou.
Both played their part in the build-up to the equaliser and Kyogo made no mistake on this occasion as he blitzed the ball behind McGregor.
So, honours even on the first day of action in 2023. If it’s any consolation to the Celtic fans, they know their team cannot play with such lack of cohesion and purpose again this year.
TEAM: Hart; Johnston, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Taylor (sub: Juranovic 21); O’Riley (sub: Mooy 61), McGregor, Hatate (sub: Jota 77); Forrest (sub: Abada 61), Kyogo, Maeda (sub: Giakoumakis 77).