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Scottish Premiership: Kyogo helps Hoops draw first blood in Old Firm dust-up

Titles aren't won in September but Celtic's 1-0 win in Sunday's Old Firm derby against Rangers is a useful step along the way for the reigning champions.

As always, the Glasgow derby wasn't without its controversies as Rangers were left to rue two disallowed first-half goals.

And the sucker punch came on the stroke of half-time as Japanese star Kyogo Furuhashi opened the scoring to silence the Ibrox crowd just moments before the break.

Kyogo has a taste for this fixture and it was his sixth goal in his last five Old Firm derby starts.

Things could have been so different for the home side, who thought they had taken the lead through Rabbi Matondo in the first minute, but his effort was correctly ruled out for offside, and there was further controversy in the 28th minute when Kemar Roofe's clinical finish was also chalked off for a foul in the build up to his goal.

The decision was a questionable one but Celtic made the most of their let-off with Kyogo lashing a vicious shot past Jack Butland in the Rangers goal.

The victory came as relief for Bhoys boss Brendan Rodgers, who has endured a difficult start to his second spell as manager at Parkhead, despite winning three of his opening four Scottish Premiership fixtures.

A shock defeat by Kilmarnock in the League Cup a fortnight ago, was followed by a disappointing 0-0 home draw with St Johnstone and questions were quickly being asked of Rodgers on his return to Glasgow.

However, Old Firm wins are what counts the most and Celtic are just 1/2 to win the Scottish Premiership title for a third consecutive season. Rangers have been pushed out to 6/4, with Hearts and Aberdeen next best both at 150/1.

Hart the difference in second half

As expected Rangers piled on the pressure in the second half in search of an equaliser but a combination of wasteful finishing, resolute defending and good goalkeeping kept them at bay.

It appeared to be one-way traffic for much of the second period but possession was shared at 50 per-cent and Gers managed only three shots on target from their 17 attempts. Celtic managed five shots on the home goal from just seven attempts and that clinical ultimately proved the difference.

The closing stages of the game were about Celtic's defensive resistance and Rangers' lack of a finish, which was highlighted by Sam Lammers' miss when he rounded Joe Hart in the away goal, who then made two key stops to deny Danilo in the dying stages.

Hart has also come in for criticism recently but he pulled off a string of decent saves to deny the Light Blues and he will have gained plenty of confidence from his match-winning efforts.

Celtic had their chances to finish the game as chances opened up on the counter-attack, but Kyogo failed to connect from close range and saw a finish cleared off the line by Connor Goldson, before firing over when he should have teed up Liel Abada, who had just forced Jack Butland into a superb fingertip stop.

Celtic sitting pretty at the top

Celtic got the job done, though, and their victory moves them four points clear of Rangers after four rounds of games and they will look to extend their advantage after the international break.

Tricky trips to Edinburgh to take on Hearts and Hibs come at the end of October, while the first rematch with Rangers will take place at Parkhead on 30th December, while a potential title decider is scheduled to take place on 6th April, 2024.

Plenty could happen between then and now, but for now the pressure has been eased on Rodgers and placed firmly on the shoulders of Gers' boss Michael Beale.

Beale has won just one of six Glasgow derbies he has faced as Rangers boss and he will need to improve that statistic quickly if he is to have any chance of turning the tables on his opposite number, Rodgers. 

Rangers will need to bounce back quickly, though, or he may not get the opportunity to do that if his side loses more ground on their bitter rivals.

Glimmer of hope for chasing pack

Any loss could be terminal in the race for the Scottish Premiership title, and defeat for Rangers leaves them down in fourth and off the early pace being set by Celtic.

That hands a rare opportunity for the chasing pack to make their mark and the betting without the Old Firm market often throws up plenty of value.

Aberdeen led the way last season with an impressive third-placed finish and they are 7/4 to repeat the feat in the 2023/24 campaign.

Hearts will also fancy their chances and will have their backers at 7/4, while Hibernian at 15/2 look a value alternative, with Motherwell next best at 8/1.

It's unlikely the chasing pack will finish above either of the Glasgow giants but the race to follow them home looks set to be an interesting race once more.

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