Kyogo Furuhashi’s late first-half strike gave Celtic a crucial 1-0 cinch Premiership win over Rangers at Ibrox to heap pressure on Gers boss Michael Beale.
The Light Blues had the ball in the net twice in the first half but on both occasions the ‘goals’ were not allowed to stand – offside and a foul picked up by VAR – but Furuhashi could have scored twice before he fired the visitors in front just before the break.
There were no travelling supporters – Celtic rejected the offer of around 700 tickets, citing safety concerns – but that seemed to hinder rather than help the home side at times as they tried in vain to get back on level terms.
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) September 3, 2023
After just four league fixtures, leaders Celtic are already four points ahead of their Old Firm rivals going into the international break and the spotlight will be on Beale, who must have heard the boos ring out at the final whistle.
For Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers, who was under some pressure himself after his team lost to Kilmarnock in the Viaplay Cup and then drew at home to St Johnstone, it was a return to the overwhelmingly positive derby results he enjoyed in his first spell as Parkhead boss.
Rangers had been knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers by PSV Eindhoven in midweek on a 7-3 aggregate, a result which brought the doom-mongers back to Beale’s door.
Dujon Sterling took over from the injured left-back Borna Barisic in Rangers’ line-up while midfielder Ryan Jack and striker Kemar Roofe returned with Jose Cifuentes and John Lundstram dropping out, while winger Liel Abada replaced Yang Hyun-Jun in Celtic’s XI.
There were only seconds on the clock when Rangers striker Cyriel Dessers set up Rabbi Matondo to knock the ball into the Celtic net, but the former was offside.
An expected Rangers onslaught failed to materialise.
Celtic were calmer in possession and in the 16th minute Hoops skipper Callum McGregor sent Abada down the right and his cross could not bring a clean connection from Furuhashi just yards from goal.
When home defender John Souttar lost possession, Celtic midfielder Matt O’Riley sent Furuhashi clear but his angled drive was blocked by a combination of Ibrox goalkeeper Jack Butland and Light Blues centre-back Connor Goldson.
Moments later, Rangers had the ball in the net again.
When Celtic defender Gustaf Lagerbielke was challenged by Dessers just inside the Hoops half the ball broke clear for the Rangers attacker and he raced on before squaring the ball for Roofe, who took a touch before firing past Celtic keeper Joe Hart.
When referee Don Robertson checked the pitchside monitor at the behest of the VAR, he ruled the goal out for a foul on the Parkhead defender, albeit it looked soft.
Furuhashi eventually got on target seconds before the interval when O’Riley returned a Goldson header into the path of the Japan striker who confidently drove the ball past Butland to silence Ibrox.
An early second-half mistake by Goldson gifted the ball to Abada and his angled shot was just missed at the back post by Daizen Maeda.
Amid some huffing and puffing from Rangers, Butland had to save a decent drive from Holm on a Celtic break.
As the Govan side kept pressing, Hart raced out to foil Sam Lammers before denying Danilo twice from close range as Celtic held on for the win.