Mikael Lustig has hit back at criticism of his conduct in the closing stages of Celtic’s League Cup final victory, insisting his actions were misunderstood by the Aberdeen management and players.
The Swedish international right-back was confronted at the final whistle at Hampden on Sunday by Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes who accused him of “goading” the Dons’ teenage midfielder Lewis Ferguson.
Aberdeen captain Graeme Shinnie, who declined a handshake from his Celtic counterpart Scott Brown after the match, was also irked by the manner of the celebrations by the Scottish champions following their 1-0 win which he claimed “lacked class”.
But Lustig has flatly rejected the interpretation of events from the Aberdeen camp. The 31-year-old denies any attempt to provoke Ferguson and says he was merely indulging in ‘banter’ with McInnes.
Lustig also revealed he mistook referee Andrew Dallas’ award of a stoppage time free-kick when Connor McLennan fouled Celtic goalscorer Ryan Christie for the full-time whistle.
“I thought that was the end of the match,” said Lustig. “I went to Ryan. I think the Aberdeen players thought I went to the young boy [Ferguson] and maybe that’s where the misunderstanding was. Then there were still a few seconds to go.
“I don’t think [it lacked class]. They said I went for the 19-year-old boy but I was screaming at McInnes because we’d had a little bit of banter at a throw-in. It was banter and it was aimed at their manager.
“When you play near the touchline, you are often in front of the managers in the technical area. Sometimes there is banter between you, sometimes the emotions run over and that’s just football. It’s nothing more than that.
“I don’t know if he [McInnes] thought that [I was goading Ferguson]. We talked for a few minutes on the pitch after the game but the conversation between us had started maybe 20 minutes before that.
“When you play football, there are a lot of emotions. Sometimes you maybe are not happy about things afterwards but, as I said, it is all down to emotions and I’m not going to run out there just to be a nice boy. If they feel a little bit sad about it, then I apologise.
“But it was a cup final and there was a trophy to win. We are never going to run out there and be best mates. For us at Celtic, it is all about winning. If we have to win ugly, then we have shown we can do it.”
Lustig had no doubts Celtic fully merited the victory which secured their seventh consecutive domestic trophy success under Brendan Rodgers.
“It’s brilliant to make it seven in a row and we just want to keep going,” he added. “Over the piece, we were absolutely the better team. We maybe should have scored more goals. We had a lot of chances in 4v2 and 3v2 situations but needed to show more quality in those positions. Overall, we didn’t produce our best game but we did enough to win.”