Ange Postecoglou hailed striker Kyogo Furuhashi after his brace helped Celtic to a thrilling 3-2 win over Rangers at Parkhead.
The Japan forward had the ball in the net early in the cinch Premiership clash only to be ruled offside, before he opened the scoring in the 26th minute with a close-range drive.
Rangers skipper James Tavernier levelled just before the break with a stunning free-kick but Furuhashi took advantage of a Ben Davies mistake in the 62nd minute to grab his fifth goal in three games against the Ibrox side and his 28th of the season.
Portuguese winger Jota scored Celtic’s third after a short back pass from Rangers defender John Souttar, before Tavernier reduced the deficit with a header.
Celtic moved 12 points clear of Rangers at the top of the table with seven games remaining and barring an unlikely collapse they will retain their title, with the possibility of a domestic treble still on the cards.
Postecoglou, who managed against Furuhashi in Japan before bringing him to Parkhead from Vissel Kobe in 2021, said: “I’ve said it a few times, from the moment this guy arrived he’s been outstanding.
“He gives everything in every game he plays, he’s a threat. If he doesn’t score a goal he works so hard for the team. He delivers in the big games.
“But make no mistake, he’s a winner. I’ve seen it first-hand.
“He wants that responsibility to rise to the occasion. He wants to be the person who delivers and he did it again today.
“He was the first one I wanted here. He didn’t arrive first but he was the first I wanted to make sure we brought in because I’d experienced him first-hand in Japan as an opponent, which I didn’t enjoy.
The Celtic boss admitted the victory was “very pleasing”, and said: “It was a typical derby with a bit of everything. Credit to both sets of players, they gave their all.
“We controlled it in different areas and always looked a threat going forward when we played through the lines. They were a threat, mainly on set-pieces.
“That gave an edge to the game, but this group of players just find a way all the time.
Celtic were backed by almost 60,000 fans as no away supporters were present due to fan safety and security issues and Postecoglou was impressed by their support.
He said: “The support was outstanding today, unbelievable. What an atmosphere. Again you feel privileged to be part of that. I’m sure the players really got energised by it. The fans were just willing the team on.
“They were a threat at set-pieces, we had a couple of nervy moments but you could still see the fans were picking them up.
“I said to them afterwards that if you can make one person’s life a little bit better, the amount of joy that brings you are outstanding.
“I said to them they have made countless thousands of lives so much better for the next few days. There is no greater feeling for anyone, particularly the players. I want them to enjoy that because they have earned that.”