Scott Brown believes Celtic showed physical and mental toughness to see off Rangers in yesterday’s League Cup semi-final on the back of their gruelling midweek Champions League loss at home to Borussia Monchengladbach, writes Andrew Smith.
Club captain Brown was one of ten starters for Brendan Rodgers who also started in the 2-0 defeat by the Germans. However, he said there were no fears in the Celtic camp about being “hit with a sucker punch” after a series of missed chances kept the tie goalless until Moussa Dembele’s 87th minute winner – and after their fitness was questioned when losing in the Scottish Cup semi-final to Rangers under Ronny Deila six months ago.
“I think they would have fancied their chances given how much running we did on Wednesday night, but I think it has been shown that we are looking after our bodies on the park as well as off the park. We are continuing to play well in every game and pushing to new limits. I think our fitness shone through at the end. We kept going. If it had gone to extra time, then I think our fitness would once again have shone through. Our main focus is about us. We don’t worry about anybody else.
“I think everyone is getting around the park a lot better, the movement off the ball is so much better as well, as is the movement on the ball. The pace we have got on our team has obviously helped there. I think the big thing is that we’re enjoying our football. We’re playing really well and we’re controlling games from start to finish. We didn’t do as well as we could have today, but we were still the better team overall.”
Brown, who called Dembele “a top quality player” for conjuring up a “great finish” so late on, also had praise for the man who set him up, Leigh Griffiths delivering the vital cross after being introduced in the 72nd minute. “He was fantastic when he came on. He pinged the ball 70 yards into the stands when everyone thought it was full-time as well! It was a great connection! But, no, he creates chances, plays for the team, works hard off the ball and works hard off the park.”
Brown, who privately craves being a treble-winning captain, an achievement which has eluded him despite Celtic’s domination of the current era, proved coy yesterday about the possibility of a clean sweep after setting up a League Cup final date with Aberdeen on 27 November.
“I think we have got to take every game as it comes. We need to continue our form in the league. We have got hard games in the Champions League coming up and we have got hard games in the league.
“We are going up to Ross County on Wednesday and then Aberdeen on Saturday. Those games are going to be hard tests for us.”