‘Rangers were better’ - Scott Brown pulls no punches over Old Firm loss but says Celtic focusing on treble

So second rate was Celtic’s performance in succumbing to Rangers at Ibrox that the title-winners’ captain Scott Brown made little of a first-rate referee grievance the visitors had on a torturous afternoon that condemned them to a 2-0 loss.

Scott Brown looks on as Rangers double their lead. Picture: SNS Group

Television pictures seemed to show Jon Flannagan swinging an elbow in the face of Brown as they jostled ahead of corner-kick in the 51st minute. Official Kevin Clancy adjudged the offence worthy of only a yellow but, even with the scoreline then only 1-0, the 33-year-old did not attempt to present the failure to red-card the full-back as key to the result.

“Another one to the face…” Brown said ruefully, that could have been taken as either a reference to the elbow he received from Alfredo Morelos in the last derby that resulted in the Colombian’s dismissal or straight arm whack to his jaw from Ryan Kent in the same game that was only punished retrospectively. “Surprisingly, somebody didn’t see that again.

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“He [Clancy] said it was a yellow because it didn’t hit me in the face. But there’s always a linesman there who can see it from the corner flag. There are two people there, both said they didn’t properly see it, so it’s a hard one for them. But it’s part and parcel.

Scott Brown looks on as Rangers double their lead. Picture: SNS Group

“At the end of the day, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome. Rangers were better, we didn’t start well, we didn’t follow our game plan, didn’t press as hard as we could, didn’t play as well as we should.

“We didn’t start well – the gameplan didn’t go well [in losing a goal] after two minutes. It was a great free-kick, to be fair. One of those deliveries that, if somebody gets a nick, it’s going in anyway I think Rangers deserved the victory more than we did. We didn’t compete, we didn’t press as well as we could have done.

“But for us, now, it’s about how we look forward. We’ve got a Scottish Cup final to look forward to, Hearts in the final game of the season – and the chance to pick up a trophy. We’ve got to put smiles back on everyone’s faces. Today wasn’t the best – but we’ve got a chance to win a treble.”

Even an extraordinary third straight clean sweep of the domestic honours won’t disguise the need for an extensive overhaul of the current squad. Interim manager Neil Lennon has been unequivocal over the need for such recasting, which seems as up in the air as Lennon’s future as Celtic have, at times, wearily stomped towards the end of the season in the near three months they have operated without a permanent manager.

Brown holds his face after clashing with Rangers defender Jon Flanagan. Picture: PA

“We’ve got a lot of players leaving, guys out of contract as well,” said Brown. “We’ll need to see who’s in charge and see what he’s going to do. Whatever manager comes in, I’m sure he’ll bring quality. I’m sure he’ll have been watching the last five or six games, whether that’s Lenny or somebody else. And I’m sure, if the gaffer’s in charge next season, he’s already got his players he’s looking at – and it will be the same for anybody else coming in.”

Brown rejected the suggestion that the decision not to seek an immediate permanent replacement when Brendan Rodgers departed in late February could be factored in to the club’s unspectacular form since.

“No, we’ve got Neil here. He’s been fantastic since coming in,” said the Celtic captain. “It’s our first defeat since here last time [in December]. So you look at the season we’ve had, it’s been fantastic. The season is not based on one fixture, one game. It’s based on how well we’ve played all season. We’ve dominated the league for the last eight years. We need to make sure we continue to do that in the cup final – and next season as well.”