The 32-year-old Welshman will be tasked with shackling the Japanese striker in Saturday’s Viaplay League Cup semi-final at Hampden. Just as he was last weekend at Celtic Park. Taylor looked to be doing a more than decent job of quelling the Scottish champions’ top scorer with the scoreline in that encounter remaining goalless until the stroke of half-time. Only for Furuhashi to force a second for Ange Postecoglou’s men shortly after the break that came when he found space to send a Reo Hatate cross goalwards the hulking centre-back inadvertently helped into his own net.
Taylor knows from that 2-0 defeat Furuhashi won’t allow him to switch off for a moment in the national stadium if the Rugby Park side are to pull off a mighty upset. “It is his movement,” he said of a forward who also struck in the 5-0 win when the clubs met in Ayrshire in the opening weeks of the season. “He is so sharp. It is trying to pick up on the little details. He often starts behind you, tries to draw you and then darts into space. It is like playing cat and mouse at times and you have to be switched on. [Keeping him and Celtic quiet] can be done and we showed that at the weekend. But, there were a couple of split seconds they managed to get in. If you switch off for a split second then they will punish you. Hopefully, we can nullify that a little bit more this weekend and keep our concentration levels even higher.”
Suffering against Celtic at Hampden is something Taylor is all-too-familiar with. He was part of the Aberdeen team beaten in the finals of the League Cup and Scottish Cup in 2016-17 invincibles treble-winning season for Brendan Rodgers’ men. In his second spell at Pittodrie, the then Derek McInnes-led team also came a cropper to Celtic in the pandemic-delayed Scottish Cup semi-final of November 2020. But it is the decider in the competition in May 2017, settled by an injury time Tom Rogic winner, that is seared in his memory banks.
“That’s the one that always burns,” he said of an encounter Aberdeen led 1-0 in, and had a chance to go two-up before a second-half turnaround for a 2-1 victory. “I always speak about that game and the moment with Johnny Hayes and Kenny McLean [to get a second in the closing stages]. If we score that chance then we probably go on to win it. But Rogic appeared last minute and did what he does and scored. I have got some really good semi-final memories, but finals not so much. It’s just unfortunate we came up against a Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic side at the time. If we didn’t come up against them I think we’d have won a trophy or two at Aberdeen. But I have got good memories of Hampden, so I hope I can replicate that this weekend. It’s a semi-final, it’s a cup game. Anything can happen in these games. You just need to stick to the plan perfectly and hope to land a punch or two.”