Celtic ensure Kyogo Furuhashi return worth the wait in 7-0 thrashing of St Johnstone

Ange Postecoglou had implored his side to maintain focus on the job in hand and move a step closer to regaining the Premiership title, and they did so with a relentless efficiency, against their relegation threatened visitors.

First half goals from Reo Hatate, Giorgios Giakoumakis and Daizen Maeda were complemented by a Josip Juranovic penalty which put the result beyond doubt, but there was still a sense of expectation at Celtic Park as the goals rolled in. Matt O’Riley added a double which set the stage for Kyogo Furuhashi’s long-awaited comeback and Liel Abada added a seventh in a convincing route that simply underlined the Japanese talisman’s popularity – the loudest roar at Celtic Park was for the second-half substitute.

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The performance emphasized the manager’s ceaseless demands, answered with aplomb by Celtic’s most devastating return of the season.

Celtic’s Kyogo Furuhashi is brought on for his first match since December. (Photo credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.)

The sub-plot of the Parkhead fan favorite’s return to action for the first time since a win over the Perth side on Boxing Day didn’t distract and while his team-mates took every chance presented to them on the pitch, his manager bided his time patiently before using his third substitute’s break.

His expectant fan-base had roared him from the team-bus, for his goal-line warm-up and each time the substitutes’ board was seen before his eventual re-appearance.

By that time the stage was set, thanks in part to Furuhashi’s compatriots Hatate and the impressive Maeda buzzing all over the Saints’ back-line and almost impossible to track in a first half that put the result beyond doubt even then.

Hatate swept Celtic ahead in the eighth minute, breaking through the defensive Perth barrier which couldn’t cope with the ceaseless pressure almost from the first whistle.

Celtic’s Kyogo Furuhashi applauds the fans as he warms up in the first half against St Johnstone. (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group)

Celtic were gifted the second by Callum Booth. After beating Maeda in a foot-race his back-pass laid in Giorgos Giakoumakis who rounded ander Clark and squeezed in from a tight angle.

The Greek pulled up injured shortly after but Postecoglou resisted temptation and kept the Parkhead crowd waiting, adding Liel Abada, rather than Furuhashi. Jota swapped wings and Maeda moved inside. The pair combined for the third as Zander Clark couldn’t keep Maeda’s header out ten minutes from the interval, and after it, normal service resumed.

Josip Juranovic scored a penalty quickly after the restart after Hatate had been toppled by Melker Hallberg and with the result assured attention turned to the returning talisman.

Tom Rogic had been replaced by Matt O’Riley at the break and another midfield change came and went when David Turnbull replaced Hatate but with the result assured and Saints struggling to offer any resistance attention turned to when, not if, Furuhashi would enter.

Celtic’s Giorgios Giakoumakis receives medical attention prior to being substituted in the first half against St Johnstone. (Photo credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

The devastating nature of what had come before it ensured the wait had been more than worth it –O’Riley headed a Turnbull cross in on 70 minutes and then knocked in another to lift the crowd off their feet again, and they stayed standing to welcome Furuhashi back.

He too ensured his patience paid off, looping a ball over the top for Maeda to knock into Abada’s path and beat Clark for the seventh time for Celtic’s record home win of the season.

Celtic (4-2-3-1): Hart, Juranovic, Starfelt, Carter-Vickers, Taylor, McGregor (McCarthy 71), Hatate (Turnbull 55), Jota (Furuhashi 71), Rogic (O’Riley 46), Giakoumakis (Abada 25), Maeda. Subs: Bitton, Guchi, Ralston, Bain.

St Johnstone (4-1-4-1): Clark, Brown, Gordon, Booth, McCart, Hallberg (Butterfield 77), Davidson (MacPherson 46), Crawford, Hendry (May 63), Middleton (Bair 63), Rooney (Sang 46). Subs: Cleary, Mahon, Gilmour, Parish.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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