Holders Celtic stood tall and star turn Kyogo rediscovered his best form as they downed valiant St Mirren 2-0 to reach the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup.
A stony-faced Daizen Maeda barely celebrated his strike in the second half but it would have delighted Brendan Rodgers. Celtic had won seven of their last eight games heading into Paisley but supporters and manager alike craved more. Their hunt for the double remains very much on.
There was no doubt about St Mirren's intent from the off, Alexandro Bernabei, tossed to the deck like a wet tracksuit by Marcus Fraser saw his forlorn appeals for a foul fall on deaf ears. But there was beauty to compliment brutality from the hosts as they pinned the holders back. But the hosts' rousing start was wiped out in an instant. From dominant to downed as Callum McGregor's stunning pass found Luis Palma who duly teed up Kyogo to poke home from the edge of the box. The Celtic talisman – thriving in his reimagined role – was finding space and getting shots off as a perfect No.10.
Unbowed St Mirren were in no mood to yield and Alex Gogic's swivelling effort was inventive and only the woodwork could stop his ferocious attempt from six yards out. But Stephen Robinson's side rode their luck with Adam Idah and Daizen Maeda inches away from doubling Celtic's lead. Palma's awful dive rightly earned him a yellow card as referee David Dickinson didn't need VAR to spot that one.
Quick-thinking Gogic limbered up before the break and his brilliant bicycle kick was palmed away by Joe Hart. That sparked a deluge of corners which Celtic weathered before the half time whistle
The holders looked breezy after the restart and Idah at full stretch was inches away from finding the net. Ralston's brilliant cross deserved better and the Scotland international brings an extra attacking threat down the righT. But that elusive second duly arrived as O'Riley's effort cracked off the woodwork for Maeda to score from close range.
St Mirren were down but not out and Greg Kiltie passed up the best of clutch of chances with James Scott bringing a fresh threat off the bench. Celtic were taking risks at the back, however, Yang brought a devilment off the bench and the winger appears ready to turn small cameos into something more consistent.
The game was stretched in the final stages but neither side were able to either cut or extend the score with Yang and Oh spurning opportunities. Celtic march on and will be hell-bent on returning to their second home in Mount Florida once more.
Celtic fans who have watched their talisman stand on the last defender rightly had fears over the striker playing off Idah. But a dawning realisation struck with each passing moment of influence. Kyogo has often found himself moved back in times of peril when the dice was rolled in search of a result. But the 28-year-old was excellent at finding gaps to exploit when then opponent wasn't penned in. The actual link-up play between Kyogo and Idah was minimal, however, the change in dynamic was potent. This feels the start of something fresh rather than an experiment gone wrong.
The St Mirren manager's belief was palpable pre kick-off that a victory was on. He urged his players not to deviate from the script and plan was working until Kyogo prodded in the opener. He watched his team create problems but he could barely hide his disdain with the amount of set pieces which went begging. Robinson and his coaching team pride themselves on dominating the opposition from corners and free kicks. The Buddies are bonafide Premiership class but the wait goes on for another day in the sun at Hampden.
The left-back is a hell of a thrill ride, isn't he? He goes from slaloming runs forward to dozing off defensively in an instant. But, and this is a significant caveat, he appears to have the trust of his captain. McGregor is happy to slide balls to him in the half turn and that's a strength of Bernabei's game. He triggered the congregated Buddies in the West Stand who were peeved with his unique throw-in technique but his boss will have liked his partnership with Palma down the left.
Is he coming good? Er, the jury's out but no can deny the former Lanus man brings a chaos to proceedings which you can't take your eyes off, his nutmeg straight into a yellow card combo is not one many others could even dare.2024-02-11T15:58:19Z dg43tfdfdgfd