Leon Balogun admits a lack of confidence cost Rangers in cup final

The Rangers defender said Celtic's goal felt like 'a sucker punch'.

Leon Balogun admits a lack of confidence cost Rangers in Scottish Cup final SNS Group

Rangers defender Leon Balogun admits they fell short of Celtic on confidence and delivering when it mattered after losing out to their rivals again.

Celtic recorded a fourth one-goal derby win of the season at Hampden on Saturday to add the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup trophy to their league title.

Rangers have now only won one of their last 12 games against Celtic, who finished the season by winning 11 and drawing one of their final dozen matches.

Philippe Clement’s side had overturned a seven-point deficit in the cinch Premiership but they handed the initiative in the title race to Celtic in mid-April and finished the campaign with only six wins from their last 15 matches in all competitions.

After losing out to Adam Idah’s 90th-minute goal, Balogun said: “I think the edge this season that they had over us was probably a bit in confidence and that they turned up and delivered when they needed to and that’s where we fell short.

“It’s not what you feel right now, going back to the rational side of things, but if if we reflect on our season, it started really, really tough, (then a ) great comeback. You can’t take it away from us, no matter how disappointed you are.

“But then in the end, results count and the main target we didn’t achieve, so we were not successful in that way, and obviously this is another blow in the gut, especially if you look at the performance, I think the boys gave everything.

“It’s hard so soon after the game, but my initial feelings are that I don’t think we deserved to lose that game. It was pretty much equal. It felt on the pitch like things were going more our way and then, I don’t want to call it a sucker punch because I think it’s a bit disrespectful, but it feels like one.

“I think we need some time to settle down and then, probably looking back, there is probably a lot of positives to pick out of this of this game if you compare it to the last derbies that we played. But at the moment it just stings.”

Balogun might have played his last game for Rangers. The 35-year-old’s contract is up and Clement is looking to free up money to sign his own players.

The German-born Nigeria international was previously released by Rangers after the 2022 Scottish Cup final before returning after a year at QPR.

Balogun made 19 appearances in an injury-affected campaign but was preferred to Connor Goldson for the Scottish Cup semi-final and some crucial league games, before his fellow centre-back suffered a knee injury.

When asked what the future holds, the former Brighton player said: “We’ll see. First I have to deal with this defeat now and try to switch off a bit and then I have to see what the next weeks bring.

“I stood here two years ago and pretty much opened up about how much I love the club. That hasn’t changed. So definitely there’s an openness. But again, for me, I have to digest this first and then we’ll see what the future holds.”

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