Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers believes his team were just as superior to Rangers in their narrow 1-0 Betfred Cup semi-final victory at Hampden yesterday as they were when they hammered their Old Firm foes 5-1 on league business last month.
Rangers manager Mark Warburton insisted his players’ performance had shown the gap between the sides is not as pronounced as the scoreline at Celtic Park indicated six weeks earlier.
But Rodgers felt only the lack of a cutting edge prevented Celtic enjoying another emphatic victory on a day when Erik Sviatchenko saw a goal controversially disallowed, while the Scottish champions failed to convert several good chances.
They settled happily in the end for an 87th-minute winner from Moussa Dembele, the hat-trick hero of that Premiership rout, which booked them a League Cup final date with Aberdeen on 27 November.
It will provide Rodgers with his first opportunity to lift silverware for Celtic, whose next major trophy win will be the 100th of their history.
“The performance was the same as the last game [against Rangers],” said Rodgers. “We had that similar performance, but we just didn’t finish the opportunities.
“Some of that was through their goalkeeper touching a ball on to the bar and it coming back to him and I’d need to see the [Erik Sviatchenko] header again. It looked very harsh that it was disallowed. When the ball is coming into the box, both sets of players are always physically trying to command that edge to get a touch on it. We’d other chances that could have gone in, but didn’t. But, again, it shows the mentality in the team.
“They kept going, didn’t get disappointed and had great discipline in the game. They got their reward which was thoroughly deserved.
“We were very dominant in terms of chances, the power and strength in our performance and the quality of our game. Sometimes you never know if the chances don’t go in and you don’t get that bit of luck which is deserving of it, you are open to a counter-attack. But I thought how we went about the game, defensively and tactically first and foremost, the players were brilliant.
“They tried to build and the intensity of the press and pressure we put on to them was at a high level. When we had the ball, we created opportunities and looked a real threat going forward.
“When you consider we were coming off the back of a really tough Champions League game in midweek, every single one of the players deserves great credit for their strength and mentality to get the victory.”