Brendan Rodgers: Celtic in 'really strong position' after Old Firm draw

Rodgers was 'super proud' of his side's efforts in the 3-3 draw at Ibrox.

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers said he was “super proud” of his side’s performance in the 3-3 draw with Rangers and thinks the draw leaves them in “a really strong position” in the title race.

Rodgers saw his side take a 2-0 half-time lead after an early goal from Daizen Maeda and a Matt O’Riley penalty.

Rangers bounced back after the break through a James Tavernier spot-kick and an Abdallah Sima strike to make it 2-2 before substitute Adam Idah put Celtic in the lead again.

Rabbi Matondo hit a leveller for Rangers in injury time to make it 3-3 and keep things as they were in the Premierhsip table.

Celtic lead their rivals by a point but Rangers have a game in hand to play against Dundee on Wednesday. However, the teams are still to meet again after the break, with Celtic Park the venue for the next derby.

“It puts us in a really strong position,” Rodgers said. “We still have a lot of work to do, still six games to go.

“But when you have your nearest rival still to play at home in front of 60-odd thousand, and you know you’re going to be stronger again to that moment, I’m very happy with that.

“I can see the players were disappointed they had not won. For a team that has been written off and told they are going through the motions all year I think we definitely turned up.

“This is the business end of the season and we are ready to turn up.

“I have nothing but positivity in how mentally they were in the game, how they approached the game, the courage they played with. It will be immense and be huge for us.”

The Celtic boss said it was “a fantastic game to be involved in” and that he was “super proud of the team” and how they handled the occasion. Rodgers felt his side could have been further ahead by half time and were “much the better football team in terms of how we were trying to approach the game and play” but he was unhappy with one key decision that went against his side, believing that referee John Beaton was wrong to reverse his own initial call on the penalty that brought Rangers back into the game.

Beaton had instantly booked Rangers attacker Fabio Silva for simulation when the Portuguese player went to ground in the box under close attention from Alistair Johnston. After being invited by VAR Nick Walsh to review the incident, Beaton rescinded the yellow card and awarded Rangers the penalty but Rodgers is adamant that Silva dived.

“I’m disappointed with the penalty, that gives them a little up in the game when we were clearly the much better team,” the Celtic manager said.

“Ali, who is on a booking, has to be really careful in the second half with the timing of his tackles and I thought he was perfect with it.

“I thought the referee got it absolutely right on the field.

“He connected with the ball, the player simulates and it was right. So clearly then they score the penalty. It gets to 2-1 and then you expect something from Rangers.

“But the whole thing was leaving here today with the performance and still with everything in our hands.

“I think what we showed today was the level of our football, players coming back to fitness, how we could deal with pressure and manage the pressure. So proud of the team.”

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