‘Excellent’ Kyogo earns praise from Rodgers as Celtic take top spot

The Japan forward scored one and assisted another as Celtic beat St Johnstone 3-1.

‘Excellent’ Kyogo earns praise from Rodgers as Celtic go top of Premiership SNS Group

Brendan Rodgers hailed the “excellent” Kyogo Furuhashi after the recalled striker scored and provided an assist in the win over St Johnstone that put Celtic back to the top of the Premiership.

The Japan forward, who was Scotland’s Player of the Year and top scorer last season, also had two goals disallowed for offside in the 3-1 win on Saturday.

The win means the Champions go a point of ahead of Rangers at least until they take on Dundee at Dens Park on Sunday.

Philippe Clement’s side will need a win in Tayside to reclaim top spot but a draw will see the top two equal on points and goal-difference ahead of the last eight games but Celtic stay ahead on goals-scored.

Kyogo has been unable to replicate the prolific form he showed under former manager Ange Postecoglou last season but was back in the team ahead of Adam Idah who has started the last three games.

And the frontman took his tally to 16 goals for this term and the Hoops support will be hoping he has found form just in time for the run-in as the race for the Premiership crown gathers pace.

He headed home a 40th-minute opener after beating goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov to Nicolas Kuhn’s cross and then set up the German winger to score in the opening minute of the second half. He also hit the crossbar and generally looked to be at peak sharpness.

After the game Rodgers said: “Adam (Idah) has been very good when he came in and that is what Kyogo and every player needs. They need competition.

“But I thought he was bright, his movement was good. Sharp.

“He was very brave at the first goal. He makes a run and comes back onside and obviously some strikers would maybe move their head out of the way with the keeper coming through but he didn’t and he scored the goal.

“And it was a great cross for the second one. He was excellent.”

Kuhn netted his second goal since his move from Rapid Vienna in January and continued to impress following a fruitful first home start against Livingston last weekend.

And Rodgers liked what he seen of the German.

The manager said: “I think you are starting to see a little bit of why we brought him here.

“He’s very quick.

“It was just hard for him when he came in, struggling with his teeth and everything medically. But he has shown now that he has his strength back up and he’s training really well.

“He obviously puts in a great cross for the first goal and you see his speed for the second one.

“We always want our wingers to get in the box. He got himself in there and scored a fantastic goal.”

Substitute James Forrest added a third in what was his 104th Celtic and Alistair Johnston was denied by a marginal offside call after Connor Smith had pulled one back for Saints in the closing stages.

Rodgers said: “I thought from the start of the game there was a great feeling in the stadium and from the crowd.

“The players started the game well and I thought overall it was a very good performance.

“The only downside was when I made all the changes our pressing went a little bit passive and that gave them a little bit more time on the ball than we would have wanted.”

Saints manager Craig Levein admitted his side could not produce the complete display they needed to get another result at Celtic Park, having drawn in August.

“Our defensive display was really good,” Levein said. “Losing the goal early in the second half was a killer blow but in the first half we restricted Celtic to very few opportunities.

“When we had the ball we just coughed it up every time. It seemed to be constant that we turned the ball over and invited Celtic to have another attack. That was the frustrating part.

“It was about half-an-hour until Celtic had their first shot on target. We restricted them to the wide areas and managed to block any shots and crosses.

“But if you continually give the ball away to a team as good as Celtic, you’re going to be facing attack after attack.”

Levein lost midfielder Sven Sprangler to a knee injury midway through the first half.

“It looks like Sprangler has opened his medial ligament,” he said. “I’ve no idea if he will be out for weeks or months.”

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