Order the ribbons, call the engraver, get the party planner on the phone – the 2022-23 Premiership ended as a contest on Saturday afternoon in gorgeous sunshine at a raucous Celtic Park.
And get some oxygen masks while you’re at it. So much for no away fans lessening the atmosphere in this game, so much for the mad carnival of an Old Firm contest being reduced because hundreds of visiting fans were not involved.
Rangers supporters might have been watching in their own backyards but they’ll have heard the racket drifting in on the Glasgow breeze, the feast from the east as Kyogo Furuhashi and Jota put the title to bed, tucked it in, sang it a lullaby and switched out the lights.
It was a pulsating contest. Loud, angry at times, mistake-ridden at others, classy when the goals started flying in, and thrilling pretty much for every second.
Rangers gave it a mighty blast. James Tavernier scored his 99th and 100th goals for the club and, 11 minutes from time, almost added his 101st.
At 3-1 and with the bit firmly between Celtic’s teeth, Rangers looked like they were heading for one of those mortifying days they’ve been subjected to often in this place. But they rallied in a pursuit of, well, a draw which would have been remarkable in the circumstances but not remarkable enough to interrupt Celtic’s march to back-to-back titles.
‘Ruthless Kyogo becoming immortal for fans’
The different generations in the Celtic ranks all have their own immortals when it comes to trickery and goals and pure unadulterated entertainment.
For the veterans, nobody will match Jimmy Johnstone. For a younger crop, watching Henrik Larsson will probably be as good as it’s ever going to get. For the new wave who weren’t around to see those heroes in the flesh, Kyogo, the whirling dervish of Celtic Park, is surely the man.
Having scored the late, late equaliser at Ibrox in January that sickened Rangers in the league, he then scored the two goals that saw them off in the League Cup final. He will visit them in their nightmares again tonight because his two here – his 27th and 28th of the season – were the giant foundations stones upon which Celtic’s now 12-point lead were built.
What an extraordinary signing the Japanese leviathan has been, what a goals haul, what joy he has sparked among the Celtic support.
This was tricky for Ange Postecoglou’s side before Kyogo struck. Rangers had come here with nothing to lose and hustled and harried their hosts from the get-go, denying them a rhythm, forcing them into loose passing under pressure.
Rangers had a big goal shout before the opener, Alfredo Morelos scoring before VAR ruled it out for a push – a very gentle one that infuriated the visitors’ bench – on Alistair Johnston. If Rangers felt aggrieved – and they had good cause – their fury turned to pain soon after.
You’d have bet the house on Kyogo lighting this place up. He scored early on but was offside when banging it past Allan McGregor. No goal, but a warning. Let the wee man free in a yard of space and don’t expect to survive for long.
And Rangers didn’t. The variety of goals that the Japanese striker scores is astonishing, but all of them have one thing in common – speed of thought that bewilders the unfortunates tasked with the job of marking him.
Matt O’Riley did brilliantly down the left but it was Kyogo’s reading of the situation – the whole picture taken in in a millisecond – that brought the goal.
In peeling away from Ben Davies and into a pocket of space, he created the platform. In pointing to O’Riley where he wanted it delivered, he took command of the situation. Kyogo spun and, by the time Davies had recovered his ground, it was too late.
They talk about fine margins in sport. This was an example. A moment’s distraction on Davies’ part was enough for Kyogo to exploit. It was ruthless execution.
‘Rangers resilient but unravel in key moments’
For Rangers people, this was desperately familiar territory. In three games at Celtic Park on Postecoglou’s watch, his team had scored eight goals against their rivals with seven coming in the first half. Make that eight out of nine.
You have to credit Rangers for what they found in adversity. Tavernier’s free-kick to level it was outrageously good. Morelos’ miss – and Joe Hart’s save – early in the new half was a continuation of the trouble they were causing Celtic. Todd Cantwell fired one over when he should have done better.
Those moments weren’t pleasant for Celtic, but they came through it and grew stronger.
When Kyogo made it 2-1 there was delirium but no surprise. When Davies made a hash of his clearance, of course it was the Japanese who was on the end of it. When he hit it, of course it went in. Unerring is one word. Unstoppable is another.
“It’s easy for me to say, but from the moment he arrived at the club he’s been outstanding,” said his manager. When Postecoglou talks about Kyogo it is the closest the coolest manager gets to cooing. “The way he works for his team is just brilliant. I never have to gee him up.”
Postecoglou spoke about his player’s kind nature and his smiling demeanour, but “don’t underestimate his competitiveness”. Nobody would or could underestimate anything about this guy.
Rangers missed their chances and then unravelled for Celtic’s second and third, the Jota goal following the John Souttar blunder that sent Celtic Park into orbit. Tavernier pulled one back and Beale’s men pushed on for a leveller that never came.
He’s done well, the Rangers manager. Twenty-one games in all competitions. Eighteen wins, two losses, one draw. He needs no reminding of who the losses and the draw came against.
He’ll need no telling about the influence of Kyogo either. Just as much as the Celtic fans can’t get enough of him, Rangers people must long for the day when they see the back of him.
That day will be a long way off. As he celebrated in the aftermath, Kyogo looked like a man in paradise, in more ways than one.