31 Dec Celtic end the year on a high in the derby
Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers may have almost taken a tumble at Ibrox but he hailed his side for refusing to slip up against Rangers.
The Parkhead boss was left red-faced after he almost lost his footing celebrating Scott Sinclair’s second-half winner.
But he could barely contain his pride after watching his team fight back from Kenny Miller’s early opener to claim their 15th straight Ladbrokes Premiership win.
Rodgers, who limped down the tunnel after applauding his side’s 2-1 triumph, said: “It was stupid wasn’t it? I just slipped when the second goal went in.
“I was trying to set off on a wee sprint but I slipped and pulled my calf. It was daft, so I couldn’t walk but I’m okay.
“We talked before the game about what would happen if we fell behind, about dealing with pressure and finding solutions. But the most pleasing thing is we stayed very calm and once we got the goal we played our way back into the game again.”
Miller put the hosts ahead after Josh Windass and James Tavernier combined to cut Celtic apart 13 minutes in.
It was a position the Hoops have rarely found themselves in this term but they regrouped and levelled after 32 minutes in stunning fashion when Moussa Demeble grabbed his 19th goal of the campaign – and his fifth against Mark Warburton’s side – with an emphatic finish from a Sinclair corner.
The Hoops wideman then slotted home with 20 minutes remaining to send the undefeated Ladbrokes Premiership leaders a massive 19 points clear with a game in hand.
“I thought it was a brilliant result for us, a real great advert for Scottish football,” said Rodgers after the thrilling Old Firm clash.
“We thoroughly deserved the win. First half we didn’t start so well, we didn’t pass the ball well enough but we were always a threat on the counter attack.
“We needed to adjust one or two things at half time but second half we were brilliant. We were a threat every time we went forward. We’re disappointed only to have had two goals.”
And Rodgers picked out his match-winner for praise after a special display from the rejuvenated former Swansea, Manchester City and Aston Villa attacker.
He said: “I thought Scott was incredible. For any supporter to watch a player play to that level in such a high-profile game was great.”
Celtic’s win ends the Light Blues’ 15-month unbeaten run at home and Rangers boss Mark Warburton admitted his team’s failure to preform consistently across the 90 minutes left them exposed.
“I’m disappointed obviously as we’ve lost a game of football,” said the Englishman, who had to do without injured skipper Lee Wallace. “We’ve also lost our record at home which is more than disappointing.
“In the first half hour I thought we were good. We came out the blocks, we were on the front foot and got the early goal which is always pleasing. It was a soft goal for us to give away undoubtedly but we finished the half strongly in terms of good possession. So we were happy at half-time.
“But in the first 15 minutes of the second half I thought we were poor. Celtic had chances and were dominating possession. They were very good and we were poor in keeping the ball.”
Yet the hosts could have snatched a point late on, with Miller presented with another golden chance after being picked out at the back post by Andy Halliday.
But the 37-year-old fluffed his finish and watched in horror as the ball came back off the post.
“We had chances,” conceded Warburton. “But you’ve got to take them. So we have to learn from this. The boys have got a well-deserved break now to recharge the batteries and we need to come back for a very strong second half of the season.
“I’m not worried [about Celtic’s lead]. My only focus is on Rangers. We want to take this club as high as we possibly can, get European football and kick on again.
“I’m not going to sit and say it was great that we got closer. We lost.
“I hope the fans stick with us. We are second in the table, just got promoted last year and we are second but of course we want to go higher.
“They have been magnificent and the support today was first class. And you saw after the 15, 20 minutes we were under the cosh, the crowd united then and had a reaction from the players. The support we received was excellent.”