Gap still huge

Celtic defender Erik Sviatchenko claims Rangers have made no inroads on closing the gap with the champions since their 5-1 Parkhead thrashing.

Rangers boss Mark Warburton argued that his side’s 1-0 Betfred Cup semi-final loss on Sunday was “nip and tuck” and that the “so-called gap is a lot narrower than people think”.

But Sviatchenko felt Celtic were as dominant at Hampden as they were at home in September despite waiting until the 87th minute to get the breakthrough, when Moussa Dembele flicked home Leigh Griffiths’ low cross.

When asked if the gap had narrowed, Sviatchenko simply said: “No. I think we showed the same as the last time. Even though the scoresheet was only with one goal, I think still we were the much better team.

“It was quite similar, just the scoresheet wasn’t as big. We had chances, we just didn’t get that goal we needed but in the end Moussa came and back-heeled it.

“We are through which is the main thing and I think we were really, really good.

“There were lots of spells in the game where we were dominant and they were struggling. It could have been more than the late goal.”

Sviatchenko thought he had opened the scoring early in the second half but referee Craig Thomson controversially penalised him for a foul on Clint Hill.

And the Denmark international felt an earlier goal could have given Celtic the platform to score more.

“It was a legitimate goal but sometimes it doesn’t go your way,” the 25-year-old said. “We just needed to go on and we got the goal.

“We had chances before that as well. We could have scored early in the game.

“You could see we were pushing and pushing and pushing. We were dominant, especially that spell in the first half, five minutes before half-time. We got all the second balls and they were pressed down.

“When we play like that, then it’s really, really difficult to defend against. You get the upper hand in the end and that meant we scored a late winner.”

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers had also argued immediately after the game that his side were just as impressive on both occasions, and was further convinced 24 hours later after closer analysis.

Speaking ahead of his side’s Ladbrokes Premiership game against Ross County on Wednesday, Rodgers said: “When you actually look at the analysis of the game and compare it to our last game where we won 5-1, every number in the statistics was better yesterday.

“We had more possession of the ball yesterday, we had more efforts on goal, more corners.

“That would tell you it was a similar if not better performance without the goals.

“The only statistic where it was different was the shots on target.”

The Celtic boss added: “I’m not worried about the gap, that’s for others to worry about. I’m only looking at the improvement for Celtic.

“If you’re asking me a comparison of the two games from a Celtic perspective, then that would be what I would comment on. The gap is absolutely no concern of mine.

“For us it was about performance and it was about winning the game.

“I thought we won the game very well, it was a great atmosphere. I think we all enjoyed it and of course you enjoy it more when you win.”

Statistics on the Scottish Professional Football League website show Celtic had more shots on target (16) at Hampden than they managed in total at Parkhead.

They also had eight corners in the semi-final compared to three in the league, while Rangers made a total of 14 saves and blocks on Sunday compared to eight last month.

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