Time will tell how successful it will be to convince Ange Postecoglou from a club in Japan which will eventually prove to be for Celtic. What is indeed beyond doubt is that the summer move itself, completed by Kyogo Furuhashi, was of great importance.
With just three superb touches, the former Vissel Kobe striker took the League Cup against Hibernian. No wonder Postecoglou and Kyogo clung to each other when the full-time whistle blew. The outstanding Scottish footballer delivered precisely when Celtic needed him. For Postecoglou, this meant the first trophy in many domestic attempts.
Celtic deserved the win, but it was fitting that the star was Kyogo. His arrival in Scotland proved to be a masterful blow by a club that has been struggling with recruitment in recent times. “He’s a brilliant player but also a great person,” Postecoglou said of Kyogo. “He was very intent on getting out there today and helping the boys. It’s not 100%. To be honest, I don’t know how he did it.”
Kyogo was absent recently due to a hamstring problem. He moved off the field to standing ovations after 83 minutes here, his race.
The winning goal was worth an even bigger stage. Tom Rojic showed both his mental presence and skill to take a direct free kick into the Kyogo track. As Hibs’ defense scrambled, Kyogo looked up before Matt Macey advanced from 20 yards away. Such is Kyogo’s level of confidence and abilities that there seemed to be little doubt about what would happen after Rogic took advantage of playing.
Hibbs contributed a great deal to the fierce competition in the final. The Edinburgh club, under the interim management of David Gray as they look to seal a deal for Sean Maloney, advanced through Paul Hanlon’s header. The center midfield met with a corner for Martin Boyle, and Josep Juranovic could not prevent the ball from crossing the line.
The problem for the Hibs was that they couldn’t hold their own long enough to cause the Celtic Race. Within a minute, Callum McGregor hit a pass from the left towards Kyogo. The 26-year-old controlled the ball superbly with his first touch. The second saw Massey being thoroughly battered.
Hibbs later had the opportunity to force overtime. Joe Hart cleverly saved from Kevin Nisbett and Joe Newell. Nisbet hit function. There was also a perfectly legitimate penalty claim after Karl Starvelt defeated Ryan Porteous. From the resulting engagement, Hanlon slammed the bar.
“It was a blatant push,” Gray said. “how is he [referee John Beaton] Misses Ryan’s mistake overtakes me. He has to give a penalty.”
Hibbs also had a complaint, voiced by their defender Paul McGinn, that Celtic’s second free kick had been taken as the match appeared to be suspended for a substitution. The scent of cordite doesn’t seem far off on these occasions.
Celtic doesn’t care. Their celebrations were more wild than ever. “That’s what this club is all about,” Postecoglou said. “You win it and then you move on to the next stage. My first task when I took on this role was to give hope to the fans. I couldn’t guarantee success, but I could give them hope. I did the things I thought would put this club back on the right track it should be on.”
Steven Gerrard, showered with praise during the Rangers’ tenure, failed to claim a single knockout cup. Postecoglou has one of one while motivating this club. As much as he hopes it will provide a springboard towards better things, there is an understanding that keeping Kyogo is central to Celtic’s ambitions.