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ANGE HAILS DERBY DEBUT BHOY JOHNSTON

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ANGE POSTECOGLOU praised new Bhoy Alistair Johnston after pitching the Canadian World Cup defender into the 2-2 derby draw with Rangers at Ibrox yesterday.

The right-back agreed a five-year contract with Celtic last month after his £3.5million switch from MLS outfit CF Montreal.

However, international clearance for Johnston did not come through until his transfer was rubberstamped on January 1.

With Anthony Ralston still sidelined through injury and Josip Juranovic starting on the bench, the Hoops gaffer gave the green light for the 24-year-old international to have a baptism of fire.

After the deadlock that saw the Parkhead side maintain their nine-point advantage at the top of the league, Postecoglou said: “I thought he was good.

END GAME…Ange Postecoglou and Michael Beale shake on it after the 2-2 draw.

“It’s a difficult game to throw him into. Not only is it a derby, it’s away from home and also we all knew it was a big game for a number of reasons.

“For the most part, he handled himself really well. He was solid defensively. He was up against a very good player in Ryan Kent.”

Postecoglou, speaking to The Herald, added: “There is more to come from him, especially in an attacking sense once he gets to understand our game.

“He won’t get a sterner test than that as a Celtic player. He came through it really well.”

Johnston is now hoping to get the nod to play in front of the Celtic fans against Kilmarnock in the east end of Glasgow on Saturday.

The defender said: “It was an unbelievable experience and once you get a little bit of that taste, you just want more, so I can’t wait for the next match already.

HEAD BHOY…Alistair Johnston congratulates Kyogo Furuhashi after the equaliser.

“You want to go in and play the biggest matches – and there’s not really a bigger match than that in the entire world of football.

“That’s right up there with the atmosphere, the intensity, the passion from both fanbases – it was immense.

“And, though it wasn’t the result we wanted in the end, we’re happy that we were able to get something out of it and send our fans home with something to hold on to.”

Johnston continued: “Even just the 750 here, there was unbelievable noise, unbelievable passion. You can just see what it means to them – every goal, every tackle – so to think about playing in front of 60,000 at Celtic Park is pretty cool.

“I’ve actually been able to experience a couple of them now, being up in the players’ lounge watching them, but to be out there, hopefully on the field or on the bench, it’ll be that next level that every player aspires to be a part of, and it’ll be a dream come true for myself.”

NUMBER ONE…Daizen Maeda is swamped by delighted Celtic team-mates after his fifth-minute opener.

The Hoops took the lead in the fifth minute following a lightning strike from Daizen Maeda, but they lost their way shortly after the turnaround when Ryan Kent levelled and then James Tavernier swept a penalty-kick high past Joe Hart to hand the hosts the lead.

Hopes, though, of reducing Celtic’s lead at the top with 18 games still to play were shattered with two minutes of the regulation 90 to play when Kyogo Furuhashi thumped his first-ever goal against the Govan club past Allan McGregor to make the final score 2-2.

Johnston was impressed by the battling qualities of his new team-mates and, speaking to Celtic TV, added: “I think it comes down to, first of all, belief from every single player, and from the coaching staff.

“They just instill that in the players, and also just the leaders on the field. We’re never settling.

“Even when we scored that second one, the older lads were saying, we’ve got to push for another one.

NUMBER TWO…Kyogo Furuhashi (second right) slams the late leveller behind Allan McGregor.

“And as the younger players and newer players in the group coming through, when you see that drive and hunger to constantly pick up three points in every single match, and that drive to say it’s not over until it’s over, it just fills you with that confidence and that belief that anything is possible.

“It’s another late goal and it’s kind of a trademark of this team, that we have that ability, no matter how difficult the match is, no matter how many people are behind the ball, that we’re always going to create that next chance, there’s always going to be another one and yet again we’ve proved it on the biggest stage.”

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Editor

Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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