IT’S BEEN smiles  better for Brendan Rodgers in his four derby encounters this season.

After an absence of over four and a half years from the fixture, the second time-around Celtic manager has seen talisman Kyogo Furuhashi fire in two spectacular winners at Ibrox on September 3 and Parkhead on December 30.

A stoppage-time equaliser in Govan on April 7 prevented a hat-trick, but Rodgers got back on track with the 2-1 success in the east end of Glasgow earlier this month to make certain the champions took 10 from a possible 12 points from their nearest challengers.

NUMBER ONE…Brendan Rodgers savours his first Scottish Cup success after Celtic’s 2-1 victory over Aberdeen in May 2017. He is aiming for a personal treble on Saturday.

Celtic completed their third successive title triumph with an eight-point advantage and now the Irishman and his players tun their attention to the Scottish Cup Final against Philippe Clement’s club at Hampden on Saturday.

The 51-year-old elite coach enjoyed success against the city rivals in his first spell between May 2016 and February 2019 when he led the Hoops on 13 occasions and triumphed 10 times while drawing two and losing only one.

In another CQN EXCLUSIVE series, we are analysing the gaffer’s previous meetings with the Ibrox club.

He got off to a dream start with a 5-1 debut hammering of Mark Warburton’s team in September 2016 and remained unbeaten while winning eight of 10 outings as we have already highlighted over the past three days.

In Part Five, CQN puts the spotlight on the remaining three fixtures of Rodgers’ first spell in the Hoops dug-out.

HERE WE GO FOR SEVEN IN A ROW…Odsonne Edouard is about to be congratulated by Dedryck Boyata after scoring the opener in the 5-0 derby rout at Parkhead in April 2018.

April 29 2018: Premiership:

CELTIC 5 (Edouard 2, Forrest, Rogic, McGregor), Rangers 0

IT WAS party-time in the east end of Glasgow as Celtic walloped their stunned Govan opponents on their way to claiming a magnificent seventh successive title.

Brendan Rodgers’ side were irresistible and unstoppable as they swept aside their city rivals with a ferocious display of finishing power at a rocking Parkhead.

Following an awesome performance, the only question that remained was why a rampant Hoops side halted the scoring with 37 minutes still to play with Graeme Murty’s players on the ropes.

The team could have gone on to beat the record 7-1 scoreline in the 1957 League Cup Final against Rangers, but, inexplicably, they didn’t continue the punishment as they took their foot off the gas.

To be fair, overworked Ibrox keeper Jak Alnwick produced three excellent second-half saves to prevent the gulf between the teams hitting new levels.

MAGNIFICENT SEVEN…Celtic players celebrate after the landslide win to claim the championship. 

Odsonne Edouard got the show on the road when he slotted home from close range after good work from Kieran Tierney on the left. The Frenchman doubled the advantage in the 41st minute and James Forrest claimed his first-ever goal against the Govan club when he eased past two defenders before drilling a low shot into the net on the stroke of half-time.

Two minutes after the turnaround, Alnwick was retrieving the ball from the back of his net for a fourth time after Tom Rogic continued his happy knack of scoring against the same opponents.

Callum McGregor claimed the fifth in the 53rd minute when Edouard delivered a fine pass from the left and the midfielder arrived right on cue to finish with expert precision.

The thunderous reception at the climax of a one-way contest shook the stadium to its foundations.

Can there be a finer way to win a championship?

TEAM: Gordon; Lustig (sub: Hendry), Boyata, Ajer, Tierney; Brown, Ntcham; Forrest, Rogic (sub: Sinclair), McGregor; Edouard (sub: Griffiths).

PICK IT OUT…Olivier Ntcham nets the only goal of the September 2018 encounter at Parkhead.

September 2: Premiership: 

CELTIC 1 (Ntcham), Rangers 0

OLIVIER NTCHAM was the man who made the difference in the derby encounter billed as Brendan Rodgers v Steven Gerrard.

The former Liverpool boss and his legendary Anfield skipper went head to head at Parkhead on a bright, sunny September afternoon.

Gerrard had gone 12 games without defeat before this match and optimism and expectation levels were unusually high among the visitors before kick-off.

Ntcham claimed the winner just after the hour mark at a stage the champions must have been wondering if this was not to be their day after hitting the woodwork FOUR times.

There had been an almighty bombardment of Allan McGregor’s goal before the breakthrough strike. The Ibrox keeper was fortunate to escape a red card in the seventh minute when he clearly flicked his boot into Kristoffer Ajer after the two had fallen to the turf in the six-yard box.

AIR WE GO…Olivier Ntcham celebrates his derby strike.

It should have resulted in an instant dismissal and a penalty-kick for the hosts, but, remarkably, referee Willie Collum, who appeared to have an uninterrupted view of the flashpoint incident, waved play on without taking the required action.

James Forrest and Mikael Lustig hit the crossbar in quick succession and Ntcham joined them in the hard luck stakes shortly after the interval when he had a shot tipped onto the woodwork by the overworked McGregor.

The elusive goal finally arrived in the 62nd minute when Tom Rogic, Edouard and Forrest combined in a sweeping move downfield. The winger’s cross was thumped into the net by Ntcham.

Justice was done!

The result left the Ibrox side without a league win against Celtic since March 2012.

TEAM: Gordon; Lustig, Ajer, Boyata, Tierney; Brown, Ntcham; Forrest (sub: Sinclair), Rogic (sub: Christie), McGregor; Edouard (sub: Griffiths).

NO GOAL…Callum McGregor beats the challenge of Connor Goldson to slip the ball under Allan McGregor, but his effort was disallowed for offside. 

December 29: Premiership:

Rangers 1 (Jack) CELTIC 

BRENDAN RODGERS suffered his first derby defeat in his thirteenth match against the Ibrox side.

It was a strangely subdued performance from the champions who were off the pace right from the start.

Despite the defeat and a terrible showing, Rodgers and the Hoops remained at the Premiership pinnacle on goal difference and with a game in hand.

Ryan Jack scored the only goal of the encounter on the half-hour mark with a low shot that was deflected past the helpless Craig Gordon off the heel of skipper Scott Brown.

The visitors had a Callum McGregor ‘goal’ ruled out for offside after the break, but the manager and the players knew they hadn’t done enough to gain anything from a fixture they had dominated since Rodgers took over in May 2016.

It tells you all you need to know that keeper Gordon was the team’s outstanding performer in Govan.

TEAM: Gordon; Lustig (sub: Ralston), Boyata, Benkovic (sub: Ajer), McGregor; Brown, Ntcham, Christie; Forrest, Johnston (sub: Edouard), Sinclair.

* DON’T miss Rodgers v Rangers: Part Six – only in your champion CQN.

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