CELTIC captain Scott Brown delivered a scornful assessment of Rangers’ contribution to the League Cup semi-final at Hampden, claiming the Scottish champions’ goalkeeper, Craig Gordon, only touched the ball to spare himself from boredom.
Rangers did not manage a single effort on target during the match and Brown was jubilant at the manner of his team’s 2-0 victory.
“I felt we were in control of the game from start to finish,” said Brown. “Rangers didn’t bother Craigy at all. He came out and caught a few crosses just because he was getting bored, to be perfectly honest. He’s gone through 90 minutes and not made a serious save. That tells you how much we dominated it, especially on that pitch which couldn’t have worked out more for Rangers than it did for us.”
Brown was scathing in his reaction to the desperately poor playing surface at Hampden which undermined the standard of football and, according to the Scotland midfielder, could have caused a serious injury.
“We were trying to pass the ball but it was bobbling about and skipping which made it hard for us,” he added. “We managed to battle as well which showed you what a good team we are becoming. It’s as bad a surface as I’ve played on. Shocking. As soon as you step on it, your foot skips into the ground. For a national stadium, it’s not really good is it?
“The biggest thing is, someone could easily have got injured. You saw Kenny Miller going down on the right hand side early in the first half. He went to cross the ball and could easily have done his cruciate on it. If that happens, they’d be questioning it – but they should be questioning it before the game.”
Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk emerged from his first experience of Old Firm combat to deliver an equally withering verdict on the level of challenge posed by Rangers. “It was an easy game to be honest,” shrugged the big Dutchman. “You know at half-time they are going to throw things in the box with a big striker coming on but we dealt with it well.
“We had no chances against us. I thought about the game over the last few days a lot. I thought if they started with a tall striker they would try and hit him, but they started instead with Miller and I knew they would sit back and try to hit us on the break.
“It was quite predictable and we dealt with it, especially in the first half. It wasn’t that easy – but it was maybe the easiest Old Firm game you have experienced. It is good to get to the final and we have a trophy in our sights.”
Leigh Griffiths set Celtic on their way to victory with his tenth-minute opening goal, earning himself a booking for celebrating in front of the Rangers fans. “I asked the ref why I was booked because I didn’t really go over and antagonise them,” said Griffiths. “I just went over and celebrated. I wasn’t running 60 yards to go and celebrate with the Celtic fans.
“I enjoyed the goal. It is not very often you get the chance to start in an Old Firm game and put a header away.”
Griffiths has forced himself to the top of Celtic manager Ronny Deila’s list of striking options in recent weeks, ahead of John Guidetti and Stefan Scepovic, and is relishing the opportunity to establish himself.
“It is the manager’s decision who he starts up front and whoever he picks, I am sure they will repay him by popping up and scoring goals,” he said. “I got the jersey today and I have repaid him by scoring a goal in the first ten minutes. You just have to keep working hard in training and it doesn’t matter how long it takes until you get your chance. When you get it, you have to take it and, thankfully, I have.
“It was never on my mind to leave the club, though. My ability has never been questioned here. It is just a case of getting that chance and taking it and I have been putting in decent performances and keeping the jersey in recent weeks.”