The Scottish champions took another significant step towards completing the treble as they convincingly defeated Rangers 2-0 in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden. Celtic are now unbeaten in all 41 domestic games they have played so far under Rodgers in a campaign which will conclude with a Scottish Cup final against Aberdeen on 27 May.
The Celtic manager reflected with satisfaction on the strides made by his team who, 12 months ago, had lost to Rangers in the last four of the tournament on Ronny Deila’s watch. After the mortifying false start of losing 1-0 to Gibraltan part-timers Lincoln Red Imps in the first leg of their opening Champions League qualifier, Celtic have been transformed by Rodgers.
“No, [it hasn’t exceeded my expectations],” said the former Liverpool boss. “When you come to Celtic you are here to win. You are here to perform and there is always expectancy here at a club like Celtic.
“I enjoy that pressure situation and obviously I’ve been asked to do it at a club I know well. It might have been different if you’d asked me after that game in Gibraltar, I knew I had a bit of work on my hands after that. But what’s important is that we see progress.
“We are still a bit away from being where I’d want us to be. But there are good signs throughout the course of the season and it’s a pleasure to work with them.
“But I’m happy for the supporters. They had a tough one here last year. You can see their joy and happiness and when it’s like that it makes us all happy.
“To play a Celtic-Rangers game to that level and that quality makes me very proud of the team. Obviously, 12 months on from where they were last year, it really shows the level they have gone to. I am very pleased.
“I really enjoyed watching the team today. I thought we looked a real powerful, top-quality side today with lots of elements to our game. A top team that can play a possession game, play with composure, can play through the thirds quickly, look a threat with our speed and then press the game with a real good concentration.”
Callum McGregor’s early goal and a Scott Sinclair penalty just after the break secured Celtic their fourth victory in five Old Firm fixtures this season. It also handed new Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha his first defeat in the job but Rodgers expects the Ibrox side to improve under the Portuguese coach.
“Listen, he has only just come in and I can see the items that he has brought to them,” said Rodgers. “They will get better. But today was a day for Celtic.”
The only blot on Celtic’s day was a hamstring injury sustained by top scorer Moussa Dembele which could rule the Frenchman out for the rest of the season.
“We’ll see,” said Rodgers. “If it’s a full blown hamstring then he probably wouldn’t be back for the cup final. We’ll see what the scan brings.”