Erik Sviatchenko has advised Mark Warburton to watch Sunday’s Befred Cup semi-final again if he thinks the 1-0 scoreline is proof Rangers are getting nearer Celtic.
The Danish centre-half was again outstanding in the middle of the Celtic defence as the Parkhead side again defeated their rivals just six weeks after the 5-1 league victory.
Warburton stressed the tighter outcome illustrated how the Ibrox side are improving but Sviatchenko, backed up by Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers, dismissed this interpretation.
“I think he should see the game again, maybe once more,” said the centre-half. “I think we were much better in all aspects. They had maybe two, three, four minutes where they had the ball in the 90 minutes. They are a good team, but throughout the 90 minutes we were the much better team.”
Sviatchenko was asked who had given Celtic their toughest match domestically in this campaign to date, with tricky consecutive away games to come this week against Ross County tomorrow and and Aberdeen on Saturday. Surprisingly the defender opted for the team currently holding the rest of the league up – bottom side Dundee.
Paul Hartley’s side lost 1-0 to the champions at Dens earlier this month after holding Celtic to two 0-0 draws at the end of last season.
“I think Dundee away was a difficult game,” he said. “They played well as they always do when we play against them. Sunday was not an easy game. That is not what I’m saying. I’m just saying that we were the better team, we were pushing, we were dominant and we could have scored a lot more goals than just one.”
Rodgers was also eager to dismantle the view that Sunday’s game indicated how the gap between the old rivals is narrowing.
He conceded that “mathematically” the margin had been reduced, from 5-1 to 1-0, but that almost every other statistic conveyed a different story. Celtic, in fact, had been more dominant than at Celtic Park last month, when they beat Rangers by a margin of four goals.
“Mathematically the gap went down, from 5-1 to 1-0 (on Sunday),” he said. “So maths will tell you it went down.
“But is Mark is happy with his performance then as a coach and manager that’s all you’re looking at. I can only look at it from a Celtic perspective and I think it was shown that we were pretty dominant in the game. For us, I was pleased with then performance.”
“It was a very good performance. Sometimes it’s just about winning and semi-finals are about getting to finals.
“That is the key. But I always feel that if you can perform well then it gives you a greater chance.
“I felt we were dominant in the game,” he added. “I’m not massively into numbers and statistics but virtually every statistic on Sunday was actually better than the 5-1 game.
“We had more possession of the ball, we had more efforts on goal and had more corners. The only thing that was down was shots. We had eight shots on target on Sunday and in the 5-1 game we had nine.”