ST MIRREN 0 CELTIC 2
A DOUBLE strike from Japanese duo Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda fired Celtic through to the Scottish Cup quarter-finals after a tough and bruising encounter this afternoon.
A goal in each half from the countrymen saw the holders come though a minefield in Paisley with the hosts determined to pull off a shock.
Brendan Rodgers watched as the action unfolded and was clearly delighted that his 100 per cent record in the competition remained intact.
Celtic went in with the advantage after a frantic, hurly-burly first-half with Kyogo’s goal separating the combatants.
It was the speedy raider who provided the breakthrough strike in the 15th minute after a lightning break forward by the champions.
Callum McGregor, who played a real captain’s part in this pulverising tie, sent Luis Palma racing clear on the left and the touchline ace carried the ball forward before releasing a pass inside at just the right moment.
Kyogo was unmarked as he stretched to make contact on the edge of the box and his low effort scorched past the stretching Zach Hemming.
PICK IT OUT…Kyogo Furuhashi races away after scoring Celtic’s breakthrough goal.
The holders also had Joe Hart and the woodwork to to thank for the interval lead after the veteran keeper pulled off a spectacular diving save to deny an acrobatic overhead-kick from Alex Gogic which was arrowing in at his right-hand corner.
The Hoops had been living dangerously by needlessly giving away a succession of corner-kicks and free-kicks and in the opening minute of first-half stoppage time it was Stephen Welsh who invited the Paisley side to throw a deadball effort into the penalty box after a silly foul on Gregg Kiltie when there was no threat.
The ball was flighted into the box and Gogic hit his attempt first time, but the Cypriot defender’s eyecatching effort was matched by the lightning reflexes of the veteran netminder who managed to parry the shot and push it away for a corner-kick before a rival could capitalise on the rebound.
But even the 75 times-capped England international was helpless in the 31st minute when Gogic swivelled to thump a right-foot drive off the face of the crossbar after yet another corner-kick on the right.
Hart was being forced to bail out his defence as a procession of setplays cropped into the box and made three excellent punches to safety as the hosts pummelled the Hoops penalty box.
KNOCK ON WOOD…Alex Gogic slams in a shot that struck the Hoops crossbar.
Rodgers’ side failed to settle into any sort of rhythm and Gogic was letting Adam Isah know he was on the pitch when the ball was dropping anywhere near the Republic of Ireland international striker.
The Hoops had two chances in the space of the same amount of minutes to give themselves some breathing space, but were just inches out on both attempts.
In the 37th minute, Idah whipped in a low shot from eight yards, but it took a nick off Marcus Fraser as it edged past Hemming’s left-hand post with the keeper wrong-footed.
Moments later, Alexandro Bernabei and Palma combined on the left before the Honduran winger slung an inviting cross in from the left.
Maeda hit to ball first-time from 10 yards, but the attempt flashed just past the post with Hemming again flat-footed.
THE CLINCHER…Daizen Maeda reacts swiftly to a rebound to thump in Celtic’s second goal with team-mates Matt O’Riley and Adam Idah looking on in appreciation.
The pacy raider had better fortune eight minutes after the interval when he doubled the Hoops advantage and took some of the pressure off his team-mates and the watching supporters.
Palma set it up with an electrifying burst down the left before lofting a high hanging cross to the far post.
Matt O’Riley’s timing couldn’t be bettered as he arrived in the box to first-time a drive at goal. The midfielder was out of luck as the effort crashed against the crossbar.
However, before the Saints defence could breathe a sigh of relief, Maeda pounced in a flash to crash the ricochet into the inviting net from six yards.
In the 62nd minute, Rodgers made a double substitution when he put on midfielder Paulo Bernardo and winger Yang Hyun-jun for Idah and Palma.
With 15 minutes to go, Kyogo and Maeda were withdrawn as Oh Hyeon-gyu and Nicolas Kuhn took their places.
The Saints continued to snarl and snap all the way to the end, but the holders refsused to give in an inch as they won their place in the last-eight draw later in the day.
TEAM: Hart; Ralston, Welsh, Scales, Bernabei; McGregor, O’Riley; Maeda (sub: Khun 75), Kyogo (sub: Oh 75), Idah (sub: Bernardo 62), Palma (sub: Yang 62).