Football: Furuhashi brace wins Celtic League Cup as Reims’ Ito stars


Japanese forward Kyogo Furuhashi bagged a brace as Celtic held off Rangers 2-1 on Sunday to lift the Scottish League Cup for the second straight year, while Reims’ Junya Ito also starred with a goal and two assists in France.

After hitting a brace in last season’s final against Hibernian, Furuhashi repeated the trick at Hampden Park as Celtic held off Old Firm rivals for their 21st League Cup win.

Celtic football players celebrate after winning the Scottish League Cup for the 21st time by beating Rangers 2-1 at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland, on Feb. 26, 2023. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Celtic’s Kyogo Furuhashi (2nd from L) scores his second goal of the game for him and his team against Rangers during the second half of the Scottish League Cup final at Hampden Park in Glasgow on Feb. 26, 2023. (Kyodo)

Compatriot Daizen Maeda could only scuff Greg Taylor’s left-wing cross but the ball fell nicely for Furuhashi as he tapped into the empty net to give Celtic the lead a minute before the break.

“I knew the chance would come,” Furuhashi said. “I wasn’t sure who was going to get the breakthrough, but the ball came to me nicely and I was glad to have slotted it in.”

Rangers’ Ryan Kent hit the post before Furuhashi doubled Celtic’s advantage 11 minutes into the second half when Aaron Mooy released Reo Hatate inside the box. The Japanese midfielder sent the ball across the face of the goal and Furuhashi held off his marker to steer home.

Alfredo Morelos bundled in from a free kick to give Rangers hope eight minutes later but Celtic, who withdrew the three Japanese toward the end of the game while sending on new signing Tomoki Iwata, saw off the tense final.

“I’m very happy to have won the cup, and want to thank my teammates for my two goals,” said Furuhashi after taking his tally to 24 goals this term in all competitions. “(Rangers) were wonderful opponents and the match could have gone either way. It was a really good game.”

In the French Ligue 1, winger Ito was involved in all of Reims’ goals as they extended their unbeaten run to 17 games with a 3-0 home win over Toulouse.

Japanese football players (from L) Kyogo Furuhashi, Reo Hatate, Daizen Maeda, Tomoki Iwata and Yuki Kobayashi celebrate after Celtic won their 21st Scottish League Cup at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland, on Feb. 26, 2023. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Reims’ Junya Ito (R) scores the opener against Toulouse during the first half of the French Ligue 1 match at Stade Auguste-Delaune on Feb. 26, 2023. (Kyodo)

Ito reacted well to a loose ball and skipped past a defender before calmly sending the keeper the wrong way in a one-on-one in the fourth minute at Stade Auguste-Delaune, his fifth goal this term handing Reims the lead.

Marshall Munetsi found the top corner from just inside the box three minutes later following a pass from Ito, and the 68th-minute corner from the Japanese was headed home by Yunis Abdelhamid.

“Scoring makes me happy for sure,” said Ito following his first goal since Oct. 23. “It was great as I wanted to get directly involved in goals.”

“I think that first goal gave me the lift, I didn’t feel like anyone would get the ball off me today.”

Related coverage:

Football: Maeda opener, Hatate brace hand Celtic comfortable cup win

Football: Furuhashi scores 19th league goal of season in Celtic win

Football: Maeda, Furuhashi on target in big win for Celtic

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