BRENDAN RODGERS celebrated a bunch of fives as Kyogo Furuhashi fired Celtic to an exhausting 1-0 triumph at Ibrox on an afternoon many of the visiting players stood up to be counted.
The Irishman was taking charge of the Hoops for the sixth time in enemy territory and has now succeeded in five of that impressive sequence – the solitary blemish coming in a 1-0 loss in December 2018.
This was a sweet victory as boos and jeers engulfed the stadium at full-time as 50,000 home fans let Michael Beale and his team know exactly what they thought as they slipped four points adrift of the champions after only four games into the new campaign.
Rodgers was the mastermind behind the triumph with skipper Callum McGregor an onfield leader who took hold of the responsibility as turned in a command performance.
LOOKING UP…Brendan Rodgers offers high praise to his battling players. Image courtesy Celtic TV.
A beaming second time-around Celtic boss said: “I feel very happy for everyone, first of all the players who put in a huge effort.
“I thought in the first-half we played some great football. We probably lacked a bit of cleanness and finesse in the final third just to exploit that and in the second-half we had to show resilience.
“You’re here at Ibrox and you understand there’s going to be pressure, but we had some really good chances in the second-half, as well, that could have put the game to bed – and just didn’t quite make it.
“But, overall, to keep a clean sheet here and to get the win, it’s amazing for the players and the supporters.
“I said to the players before coming out: ‘Guys, I know we’re a young squad, but I need you to play like men today’.
“They showed that courage and, to a man, they gave everything, especially in the second-half. They threw their bodies on the line and Joe made a couple of very good saves for us.”
PICK IT OUT…crackshot Kyogo Furuhashi lashes in the Ibrox winner.
Rodgers, speaking to Celtic TV, continued: “We couldn’t quite connect the game in the second-half, but we still carried a threat on the counter-attack, but they were absolutely brilliant.
“When you consider what this group is missing in terms of players, but not just players, influential players, to come here and show that desire and drive to get a result is really impressive.
“So, it’s a big moment for the squad – they can feel what it’s like to get this win and I’m really happy for them.”
Kyogo snapped up the only goal of the encounter when he latched onto a forward header from Matt O’Riley, another tireless performer in the green and white, after he had intercepted a clearance from Connor Goldson from a length goal-kick from Joe Hart.
The Japanese speedster raced away before thumping an exquisite low right-foot 20-yard drive away from the diving Jack Butland in the second minute of stoppage time.
Rodgers added: “What was great about the goal was that I said to the players – it’s something that gets lost in the game, the dirty bits of the game.
HAPPY DAZE…Kyogo Furuhashi is congratulated by Liel Abada after his wonder matchwinning strike.
“We scored a goal against Ross County like it – the ball gets played forward and we win the first ball and the second ball, and then we’re in. The same happened here in this game.
“We were defending a goal-kick and Matt O’Riley makes a great header to win it and by winning it, he puts Kyogo away and then the finish is sublime.
“He’s taken it very early and against a really good keeper in Jack Butland he’s finished it so well. And probably he had one other moment in the first-half when he was in on goal and we all expected him to score.
“Then in the second-half, as well, he chopped inside when he was away. But he carries such a threat. His running ability and his energy is super.
“In football, you can’t play perfectly all the time. We want to create opportunities and we want to score, but when you have those days when maybe you are away from home and you’re under pressure, you have to show that resilience. And they had that in bucketloads on this occasion.
“So, I’m so happy for the players. I think they’ve been on death watch by the media for the last week or so, coming into this game.
“But for me, as a coach, it was about staying calm, working the players and knowing that they’re going to grow and develop. This is a big part of the development – to come and win away at Ibrox.”