Friday 18 October 2019

Rodgers hails 'near-perfect' display as Bhoys hit summit

Steven Gerrard cuts a frustrated figure as Rangers missed the chance to go joint-top of the Scottish Premiership. Photo credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Steven Gerrard cuts a frustrated figure as Rangers missed the chance to go joint-top of the Scottish Premiership. Photo credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Ronnie Esplin

Brendan Rodgers claimed Celtic were "near-on-perfect" in leapfrogging opponents Kilmarnock to the top of the Premiership with a stunning 5-1 victory at Parkhead.

Steve Clarke's side travelled to Parkhead with a one-point advantage over the Hoops, but goals from James Forrest, Odsonne Edouard, Mikael Lustig and Ryan Christie had the home side in a commanding interval lead.

Half-time sub Eamonn Brophy reduced the deficit with a penalty soon after the break, but Forrest grabbed his second as the Hoops moved two points clear of Killie - although Rangers had the chance to go top with a high-scoring win at Dundee yesterday, but were held 1-1.

"It was a brilliant team performance," said Rodgers, who is confident that left-back Kieran Tierney, who missed the game with a groin issue, will be fit for the crunch Europa League group game with Salzburg on Thursday, where the Hoops' future in the competition will be decided.

"Like everyone said going into the game, Kilmarnock have been outstanding in the work Steve (Clarke) has done with them, especially in terms of how compact they are.

"How we played against that was near on perfect in terms of our positioning in between their lines and when we got on the other side the quality to cross it and finish was exceptional. I'm so happy with the performance."

Rodgers then insisted there is no room for sentimentality after veteran skipper Scott Brown was dropped to the bench after starting against Motherwell in midweek.

Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie have become regulars in the midfield in recent weeks and Brown has lost his automatic place after recently returning from injury.

The Northern Irishman was offering his 33-year-old midfielder, who took over from Christie on 77 minutes, little succour ahead of the visit of Salzburg.

He said: "I have compassion for players, especially for ones who have done amazingly for me, but what I don't have is sentimentality. We don't rely on 11 players, we need more than that."

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard insists he now knows which players to trust after his much-changed Rangers side drew 1-1 against 10-man Dundee at the Kilmac Stadium at Dens Park.

After losing 1-0 at home to Aberdeen at Ibrox in midweek, Gerrard brought in Joe Worrall, Andy Halliday, Jordan Rossiter, Ryan Kent, Eros Grezda and Kyle Lafferty for a game against a side who started the match bottom of the table.

Former Gers striker Kenny Miller gave the home side the lead after just nine minutes, but that advantage was cancelled out in 21 minutes after Dark Blues defender Nathan Ralph was given a straight red card for a foul on Ibrox winger Daniel Candeias just outside the box, and Halliday fired in the resulting free-kick.

The Light Blues were thereafter denied by a Dundee side who defended desperately for the well-deserved point which took them off the bottom, while the visitors ended the match two points behind Celtic.

Asked about all the changes, the Light Blues boss said: "It won't happen again. People knock on the door. People shake their head when they are not in the team. People are disappointed, but that's fine, that's football.

"But when you are given a chance, go and back it up, go and perform. Give me a problem and a headache. I know the players I can trust and it is a reality check today that we are not good enough to make six changes.

"I am very disappointed. Our last two performances have been very poor.

"Seven days ago we were in a fantastic place, top of the league, looking like we had players who could handle the responsibility of being a Rangers player because we end up at the top.

"The last two performances don't look like the team we are trying to build and individuals are not stepping up and performing at a level that is acceptable."

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