Canada defender Alistair Johnston makes debut for Celtic in 2-2 tie in Old Firm derby

GLASGOW, United Kingdom — Canadian defender Alistair Johnston made his Celtic debut Monday with Kyogo Furuhashi's 88th-minute goal securing a point for the Scottish league leader in a 2-2 tie with Glasgow rival Rangers.

Trailing 1-0 after a fifth-minute Daizen Maeda goal, Rangers pulled ahead early in the second half on goals by Ryan Kent (47th minute) and skipper James Tavernier (53rd, from penalty spot).

Furuhashi tied it up in a goalmouth scramble that saw the ball bounce off several defenders before it fell to the Japanese international in front of goal. It marked the 17th goal Celtic has scored in the final 15 minutes of a game this season.

Celtic (18-1-1) remains nine points ahead of second-place Rangers (14-2-4).

Johnston, whose transfer from CF Montreal to Celtic was confirmed in early December, started the Old Firm derby at right fullback at Ibrox. Former Canada captain Scott Arfield was on the bench for Rangers.

Speaking prior to the match, Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou said Johnston had performed well in training and that Croatia right back Jusip Juranovic wasn't 100 per cent fit. But Juranovic was called on in the 21st minute when left fullback Greg Taylor left with an apparent hamstring injury.

Celtic pulled ahead early, taking advantage of a Ranger defensive miscue. Japan forward Daizen Maeda intercepted an errant Alfredo Morelos pass and then used his speed to beat two defenders before slotting the ball under goalkeeper Allan McGregor.

Kent tied the score from just inside the Celtic penalty box, sidestepping Johnston to curl a right-footed shot past a diving Joe Hart, Tavernier then put the home side ahead from the penalty spot after Swedish centre back Carl Starfelt took Fashion Sakala down. It marked the 100th career goal for Tavernier.

Monday marked the Old Firm derby debut for Michael Beale, named manager in late November after Giovanni van Bronckhorst was fired. Beale had won four straight since taking over the team

Celtic won 4-0 when the two teams met Sept. 3 at Celtic Park.

Johnston started all three of Canada's outings at the recent World Cup in Qatar, part of a record run of 31 consecutive games, erasing the record of 27 set by former Canada captain Bruce Wilson from 1984 to '86.

The 24-year-old from Aurora, Ont., has won 33 caps for Canada in total. The 34-year-old Arfield last played for Canada in November 2019, retiring from international football with 19 caps.

Celtic said Johnston has signed a five-year contract. While Celtic and Montreal did not detail the transfer price, Glasgow's Daily Record reported the deal is worth around three million pounds (C$4.91 million).

Montreal gave up US$1 million in general allocation money in December 2021 to get Johnston from Nashville SC, who took him 11th overall in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft out of Wake Forest.

In 2022, he scored four goals for Montreal and added five assists in 33 MLS regular season games, including 30 starts. He also started two playoff games and played in three CONCACAF Champions League matches

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 2, 2023.

The Canadian Press