100% duels won: Celtic’s “crucial” 113-touch machine was Ange’s unsung hero vs Hibs – opinion

    League leaders Celtic maintained their grip at the summit after racking up their 12th successive Scottish Premiership win with victory over Hibernian on Wednesday evening, with the Parkhead giants seemingly hitting their groove just in time for the upcoming Old Firm showdown.

    Having seen off St Johnstone in emphatic fashion on Christmas Eve, the champions followed up that dominant showing with another scintillating display last night, inflicting yet another heavy defeat on the Easter Road outfit.

    Ange Postecoglou’s men had claimed a 6-1 victory when the two sides had met earlier this season and it was more of the same this time around, with the visitors taking control in Edinburgh after racing into a two-goal lead courtesy of goals from Aaron Mooy and Daizen Maeda.

    A further strike from the aforementioned Mooy – this time from the penalty spot – and a composed finish from diminutive marksman Kyogo Furuhashi put the Glasgow giants out of sight just after the hour mark, with the away side having been in truly rampant mood on the night.

    For all the plaudits that will flood in for Postecoglou’s attacking talents, a word must also be said for the performance of the Hoops’ backline, with centre-back colossus Carl Starfelt having been something of an unsung hero alongside Cameron Carter-Vickers.

    The Sweden international had demanded more clean sheets prior to kick-off after admitting it was “irritating” to see his side concede, with that seemingly firmly on his mind as the 27-year-old did all he could to keep Hibs at bay.

    The former Rubin Kazan brute – once described as a “crucial” player by football writer Sacha Pisani – notably won 100% of his total duels in what was a commanding showing at the heart of the defence, while also recording an impressive haul of nine clearances after dealing with everything that came his way inside the area.

    Not just a rock-solid presence, the £19k-per-week man also showcased his quality in possession after recording an eye-catching 91% pass accuracy rate from his 113 touches, having also registered one key pass in total.

    That all-round display unsurprisingly saw Starfelt record a stunning match rating of 8.0 – as per Sofascore – with that figure only bettered by two-goal teammate Aaron Mooy among those for either side.

    The Stockholm-born menace was also lauded by Glasgow Live’s Alan Galindo for his ‘vital early block‘ to help deny opposition forward Kevin Nisbet, with such an intervention potentially proving pivotal in the outcome of the game.

    Having ‘sailed through another tough domestic test with flying colours’ – in the words of Celtic Way’s Tony Haggerty – the five-cap rock will now be hoping to maintain this momentum in Monday’s crunch clash away at Ibrox.

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