Ange Postecoglou admits Celtic face title 'challenge' after Scottish Cup defeat to Rangers
Celtic at times seemed inhibited and out-of-sorts in going down 2-1 in extra-time to a Rangers many had wrongly assumed could be there for the taking following their requirement to push themselves to the max over two hours to progress to the Europa League last four on Thursday evening.
And Postecoglou didn’t disagree afterwards that the letdown of a first defeat at Hampden in 18 ties for the club and a first domestic loss in seven months and 34 games will demand Celtic show the backbone that has allowed them to establish a six-point lead in the cinch Premiership, despite losing three of their first six games. The first of the five post-split fixtures that will take them to Dingwall next Sunday now becomes a monumental encounter on that front.
"We have had to be resilient all year and this is another challenge for us,” said the Celtic manager. “We are disappointed we didn't get to another final, we are disappointed for our fans. But irrespective of what happened today we have five games to concentrate on winning the league, starting next week. We need to make sure that we use this disappointment to fuel our endeavours in this next series of games.”
The Australian sought to sidestep the surprise inability to capitalise in extra-time on the fact that Rangers had come right off a similarly punishing shift in contrast to Celtic having a full nine days to prepare for the two clubs’ Hampden showdown.
“I wouldn't make too much of that stuff,” he said, Celtic appearing to lose heart after a Carl Starfelt own goal gave Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men a 2-1 advantage in 124 minutes. Celtic missing the opportunity to go two goals up when Cameron Carter-Vickers cracked the crossbar in the 69th minute - nine minutes before Scott Arfield restored parity. “At the end of the day, it's two teams giving everything right until the final minute. There's so much at stake. The 28, 29, 30 players that came on today gave everything they could. It's what you expect in this kind of game.”
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