KYOGO FURUHASHI made a fabulous first impression when he thumped in a hat-trick on his Parkhead debut on August 8 2021.
The Japanese striker had arrived in Scotland just over a week earlier following his £4.6million signing from J-League outfit Vissel Kobe.
Kyogo had a low-key introduction to Scottish football as a late substitute the previous weekend in the 2-1 loss to Hearts at Tynecastle in the Premiership opener.
He netted in the midweek Europa League qualifier against FK Jablonec in the Czech Republic when he tucked away the second goal in the 4-2 win, but he really came to life with a dazzling hat-trick in the 6-0 win against decimated Dundee on his Paradise baptism.
HEADS YOU LOSE…Kyogo Furuhashi is off target in last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final extra-time loss to Rangers. Connor Goldson and James Tavernier get a close-up view of the effort.
The livewire raider went on to claim 20 strikes in an injury-interrupted campaign and the highlight was his double that helped Ange Postecoglou to his first silverware success as Hoops gafffer in the 2-1 comeback victory over Hibs in the League Cup Final in December last year.
However, there is still something amiss from the 27-year-old frontman’s impressive record that sees him with 16 strikes to his name this time out.
Former Hoops striking legend Chris Sutton has put the spotlight on the darting attacker and said: “Kyogo Furuhashi has a host of special attributes which make him an outstanding striker.
“But the one thing he does not have on his Celtic CV yet is a goal against Rangers.
“On Monday, the stage is set perfectly for him to put that right. Kyogo has absolutely blitzed the entire league since he signed 18 months ago, but a strike against Rangers is the missing piece.
“I’m not saying you can’t be judged as a top-class Celtic striker just because you haven’t scored against the big rivals.
“Plenty of good past Parkhead strikers haven’t done it and, let’s face it, Kyogo scored two goals against Hibs to basically win a League Cup Final of his own and secure a trophy a year ago, so his place in the hearts of the fans is already established.
“But, more than any, these are the games that define you as a Celtic player.
NET PROFIT…Kyogo Furuhashi celebrates putting Celtic ahead in the 5-0 win at Kilmarnock in August.
“Just as the Champions League nights and big European occasions make your reputation as a Parkhead player, so do the matches against Rangers.
“I was fortunate enough to score goals against Juventus in the Champions League and to score important goals on the way to reaching a UEFA Cup Final with Celtic.
“But the other ones that are mentioned just as often to me when I go to functions or bump into fans are the Old Firm goals. Scoring on my debut in 52 seconds for a 6-2 win in 2000. Or lobbing Stefan Klos in the final minute to complete a green and whitewash four years later.
“I’m sure it’s the same for the Rangers boys who have gone through similar experiences.”
Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “Kyogo has never gone into the fixture in better shape or form. Truth be told, he’s been unfortunate so far as regards the fixture.
“First appearance at the start of last season, Kyogo was shifted to a wide position to accommodate Odsonne Edouard.
“Postecoglou admitted that was a mistake and everyone could see that when he switched into the middle for the final stages of the match and had a couple of chances which should have brought an equaliser.
“Kyogo’s bad injury problems then meant he didn’t play any of the next two Old Firm games, both of which Celtic won with Giorgos Giakoumakis leading the line.
SIGNS ARE GOOD…Kyogo Furuhashi is a Celtic prize guy after his double salvo in the 2-1 League Cup Final win over Hibs on December 19 2021.
“Upon return, with the Greek then crocked for the Scottish Cup semi-final, Daizen Maeda got the nod and Kyogo did very little when coming as a sub. That, again, was understandable. He’d just come back from four months out.”
The one-time England international added: “In the final meeting of the sides last season which ended 1-1, the striker was still rusty-looking and could not make a real mark.
“This season’s first meeting, he lasted only seconds before going off following a challenge from John Lundstram.
“So there have been mitigating circumstances to this point, but this is Kyogo’s time. He’s got four goals in three games. He’s top scorer in the Premiership.
“This is the moment for him.”