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Rangers manager Philippe Clement admitted a slow start and a needless red card cost his side in a crucial 2-1 defeat at Celtic Park.

John Lundstram was sent off for a sliding challenge on Alistair Johnston in first-half stoppage-time after Cyriel Dessers had pulled a goal back for the visitors.

Lundstram had turned Daizen Maeda’s cross into his own net seven minutes earlier, shortly after Matt O’Riley had opened the scoring.

Clement said: “The first 20 minutes we were not aggressive enough. After that, the red card decided the game because after their 20 minutes, we were coming into the game.

“We had enough chances in the first half and at half-time the expectancy of the teams was similar. There were only a few more shots from distance by Celtic.

“It is, of course, more difficult if you have to play with 10 and that is a thing I never want to see—Lunny is the first one that knows that, the group knows.

“I don’t want to see that type of tackle anywhere on the pitch. There it was totally unnecessary.

“It was one split-second of wrong decision-making by a player but I don’t forget what he’s been doing for the team in the last couple of months and all year for Rangers. He’s the first one who knows he has made a mistake. There was totally no reason for it.”

When asked how Lundstram had reacted in the dressing room, Clement said: “He didn’t speak. Of course he is disappointed. He will feel like that.

“I also had moments like that in my career where you take a red card and it is not necessary.

“He is experienced. He knows and I’m sure in the next couple of weeks he still wants to fight for this team.

“Maybe he wanted to fight a little bit too much and take the team with him.

“We had also a few good chances to score before that and you’re totally in the game. We were then not out of the game but it was much, much more difficult.

“The positive side is that the team again showed resilience. They didn’t give up and it would have been easier to give up in an environment without fans, being behind and with 10 men. We kept on going.

“Nobody was relaxed until the last second but we couldn’t get it over the line.”

Rangers are now six points and seven goals behind Celtic with two games left.

“My mentality is never to give up as long as something is possible, but I’m not naïve,” Clement said. “We need to focus now on recovering fast and showing a good reaction against Dundee. That’s the first thing to do.”

Clement confirmed John Souttar had gone off at half-time with an unspecified injury and explained why Todd Cantwell stayed on the bench throughout.

“He was fit, yes, but this was not the game to put him on when we are playing with 10,” he said.