Friday, May 24, 2024

´We are nearly there!´ – Rodgers revels in huge Old Firm win as Celtic close in on title

SoccerNews in Scottish Premier League 11 May 2024

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In an Old Firm derby that was almost certain to decide the Scottish Premiership title race, the drama did not disappoint at Celtic Park as Brendan Rodgers savoured a pivotal 2-1 victory over rivals Rangers.

Rodgers’ side began Saturday three points ahead of their rivals with three games to go, and they are now six clear with two to play, meaning a 12th title in 13 years is all but secured.

Rangers battled hard but ultimately left themselves with too much to do.

John Lundstram was at the heart of the drama towards the end of the first half, doubling Celtic’s lead with an own goal shortly before he was sent off after a VAR review.

Rangers have scored in 33 of their 36 games, more often than any other team this season, and Cyril Dessers was on target to get one back, Matt O’Riley having earlier put the hosts ahead.

However, Rangers only attempted eight shots in the game, their lowest total in a single Premiership match this season.

Philippe Clement felt like his side were always in the contest despite going down to 10 men, but he was disappointed with the rash decision from Lundstram to make an ill-advised challenge on Alistair Johnston.

The Belgian told Sky Sports: “We didn’t start well enough – we were not good enough and giving away too many shots.

“We started to play after 2-0 and then we did good things, a few good crosses, but then of course taking a red card makes things ten times more complicated for us.

“After the red card my team kept on fighting, but the red card kills off our plan for the second half.

“It is totally unnecessary to make the tackle. It is a split-second wrong decision, but I do not forget all the things he [Lundstram] did well in the last couple of months.

“The team need to show the mentality they showed for the last 70 minutes because the first 20 was not good enough. They need to show it for 90.

“In the next two games and the Scottish Cup final it is important to show a reaction.”

Rodgers’ side will travel to Kilmarnock for their penultimate league match of the season on Wednesday, now only needing one point to secure the title with a match to spare.

Reflecting on a vital win that came despite O’Riley having a second-half penalty saved by Jack Butland, the Celtic boss said: “It is very significant, we are nearly there!

“Three points and another goal to the goal difference [advantage], so it’s a fantastic win. Right up until the penalty we were very good, the energy and the speed was outstanding. It was a brilliant day.

“Celtic supporters all around the world in bars and houses, they understand Celtic-Rangers is all about winning.

“The guys showed a great mentality and it’s three victories against Rangers in four games now.

“The crispness and quality of football was very good. They showed great courage. It’s there for us now, we’ve got to go on and win it.”

Celtic have avoided defeat in all four Old Firm derbies in the Scottish Premiership this season (W3 D1), doing so for the first time since 2017-18.

The teams will still meet again this season, with the Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park scheduled for May 25.

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