The pre-billed return of Kyogo Furuhashi received the biggest cheer of several on Saturday afternoon. From the first as he popped off the team-bus, they grew in volume through the pre-match warm-up, his substitute’s run-out standing ovation to the roaring crescendo of his 71st minute introduction for Jota. The little Japanese forward didn’t disappoint either when he came on providing the pre-assist for Liel Abada’s seventh.
But could it have come earlier?
Ange Postecoglou insists it was all part of the game plan to give Furuhashi 20 minutes, and wasn’t tempted to pitch him on when Giorgos Giakoumakis pulled up with a hamstring tweak, but making three substitutions before his eventual return certainly contributed to the growing sense of anticipation.
Man of the match
If Kyogo was man of the moment then his fellow Japanese forward Daizen Maeda was a contender for man of the match with his incessant running along the right channel or through the middle when Giakoumakis limped off. One wag on Twitter even offered 20/1 odds that the Celtic forward would win the Grand National due off shortly after full-time. Judging by the way he was retrieving the ball deep beyond the 80th minute he probably still had the stamina for the 7km Aintree course.
It was difficult to single others out in an all-round impressive team performance from Celtic, though the central defenders and Joe Hart had very little input, through no fault of their own.
Celtic (4-2-3-1): Hart 6, Juranovic 8, Starfelt 6, Carter-Vickers 6, Taylor 7, McGregor 7, Hatate 8, Jota 8, Rogic 7, Giakoumakis 6, Maeda 9.
St Johnstone (4-4-2): Clark 6, Brown 4, Gordon 5, Booth 4, McCart 4, Hallberg 5, Davidson 4, Crawford 4, Hendry 4, Middleton 5, Rooney 4.
In a performance that provided so much, including a rare James McCarthy appearance, something was lost. Giorgos Giakoumakis was not only injured, but the Greek striker also saw his unusual record of scoring with single touch finishes come to an end at Celtic’s second when he ghosted onto Callum Booth’s backpass and rounded Zander Clark. Two touches and a tweak of the hamstring, but a 7-0 win and record score for the season nonetheless.