Rangers 0-1 Celtic: Kyogo sign of champions' strength at Ibrox

Liam Scales
Celtic's young defender Liam Scales was a standout for Brendan Rodgers' side

There's clearly nothing that Rangers can do to defuse the buzz bomb that is Kyogo Furuhashi. Signing a top notch goalkeeper in Jack Butland didn't cut it. Signing eight outfield players in the summer didn't make the difference. Playing the game in front of 50,000 of their own - and none of Celtic's - was neither here nor there.

In the summer, Celtic lost Jota, who has lit up this fixture in the past. They lost Carl Starfelt, one half of a settled centre-back partnership, to a transfer abroad and Cameron Carter-Vickers, the other half of the treble-winning combination, to injury. None of that boomeranged back at them at Ibrox either. None of it.

For the fourth time this year in Old Firm games, the man who came up with the most decisive moment was Kyogo. Michael Beale, the Rangers manager, will have nightmares about him. In a frenetic, error-strewn derby that was madcap in its intensity but lacking much in the way of calmness and cohesion, the Japanese stood apart in an attacking sense.

An 88th minute equaliser at Ibrox in January, a double in a 2-1 win in the League Cup final in February, another double in a 3-2 win at Celtic Park in April - and now this.

Just before the break. A clearing header from Connor Goldson, a header in reply from Matt O'Riley, a ball soaring over the heads of the Rangers defence and only one player alive to the possibilities. His finish, a first-time volley, was delicious. Butland didn't have a chance. Having missed twice earlier in the half, Kyogo relocated his ruthless touch and settled the first Old Firm game of the season.

What Rangers would give for a player like him. They've splurged on all sorts of attacking options in the summer, they've forked out relative fortunes in fees and salaries on myriad strikers and wingers and none of them have delivered so far.

Sam Lammers and Danilo started on the bench along with two other new arrivals, Jose Cifuentes and Abdallah Sima. When Lammers and Danilo came on in a forlorn pursuit of a point, they had chances they didn't take.

'A psychological blow landed in first half'

Celtic were teetering, but not folding. There was so much made of the possible frailties of Liam Scales at the heart of the Celtic, but the weakness was beside him. Gustaf Lagerbielke was vulnerable in a way that Scales was a rock. The Irishman stood up strong when so many folk would have doubted him.

Celtic were there for the taking if Rangers were good enough to take advantage, but they weren't. The lack of a clinical edge brought Ibrox to its knees. The frustration and fury pouring from the stands was loud and angry. When Danilo came on for Roofe, and not the ineffective Cyriel Dessers, Ibrox let Beale have it square between the eyes. The endgame brought more thunder from the home fans.

Much will be made of the Rangers goal that wasn't in the first half, the coming-together between Lagerbielke, the new and spooked Celtic centre-half, and Dessers, the new and spooked Rangers centre-forward.

Lagerbielke fell in a heap, Dessers ran on, squared for Roofe who scored. Dream start for the home team. A psychological blow landed on a team who arrived at Ibrox heavy on injuries and light on feelgood.

But, no. VAR stepped in and the goal was ruled out. Ibrox howled. Did Dessers' right foot stand on Lagerbielke's right foot in the key moment? Did Dessers put his foot in front of a player kicking the ball, which is a foul in the laws? That was where referee Don Robertson got to in the end. A close call, but not an excuse for Rangers.

Rangers had so much ball and so many opportunities to get a point, or three, but weren't good enough. Celtic hung in there, rising above their own inadequacies on the day, surviving the loss of their first-choice centre-halves and their creative midfielder, Reo Hatate.

'Another dose of defeat inflicted by Rodgers'

Rodgers said he wanted his players to "play like men" in a hothouse atmosphere, where it was 50,011 versus 11. Celtic have had prettier and way more emphatic victories over their old rivals, but this was as sweet as any of them.

Watching from afar, the Celtic fans will have celebrated as if this was the greatest of the lot. They're entitled to throw some bitter truths at their opposite numbers now - if Rangers can't score and lose to a weakened and shaky Celtic at Ibrox what fate will become them when the defensive cavalry exits the treatment room and returns to the team and when Rodgers has more time to instill his methods on the training ground?

It's not just Carter-Vickers, Nawrocki and Hatate to come back for Celtic, it's the battalion of new boys as well. Odin Holm looked impressive when he came on. Holm is only 20. Paulo Bernardo and Yang are only 21, Kwon and Marco Tilio are only 22. Luis Palma is 23.

When Rodgers gets to work on that lot, things might get interesting at Celtic. As it is, he left Ibrox with his excellent record enhanced. He's come up against Rangers on 14 occasions and has still lost just once.

In his first incarnation his team created history by scoring five at Ibrox and more history when winning 4-0 at Hampden, their biggest win over their old rivals at the national stadium in nearly 40 years. He inflicted some serious suffering on Rangers in his time - and this was another dose. Different, but wounding all the same.

The respective demeanours of the managers at the end told the story. Rodgers hugged his staff and beamed brightly on the side line. Beale, by comparison, looked hangdog. Another big game and still the wait goes on for a truly meaningful victory. He's been in the job for nearly 40 games stretching back to mid-December. Progress, if it exists at all, is only visible through a telescope.

Beale turns 43 on Monday. He'll have happier birthdays. More a time for post-mortems than presents in his world.