ANGE POSTECOGLOU has praised his Celtic players after the 1-1 draw with Rangers at Parkhead this afternoon which kept his side six points ahead in the race for the Premiership title.
With only three games to go – starting with Hearts in Glasgow on Saturday – the Hoops boss urged his players to deliver a strong finish to the campaign.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst watched his team come back from a goal down to equalise and come so close to a winner and the Ibrox boss rued a missed opportunity to keep the pressure on their Glasgow rivals.
Filipe Jota claimed an opportunist’s effort in the 21st minute to nudge the Hoops into the lead and then Daizen Maeda blew two opportunities to add to the team’s lead before the visitors eventually levelled through Fashion Sakala with a low drive that beat Joe Hart at his near post in the 67th minute.
CELTIC VIEWS…Ange Postecoglou reflects on the 1-1 derby deadlock.
The Hoops remain firm favourites to collect their tenth crown in 11 years, but Postecoglou sounded a note of caution when he said: “I don’t know about unassailable, but we are in a strong position.
“We have three games to go, two of them at home. We have been so strong at home all year, including today, we didn’t lose.
“From our perspective it gives us a great opportunity to take advantage of the position we are in. The thing with us, we don’t want to sort of just get there, we want to finish strong and we have three games to do that.”
The Greek-Australian, speaking STV, commented: “The boys are not jubilant. They understand that they had to work hard today to get something out of it.
“We will keep improving as a football team, but the character they are showing at the moment, that’s priceless.
“That’s what is going to hold us in good stead not just for this year, but for years to come if we keep having that mentality of taking on every challenge before us and making sure we don’t yield and we don’t give up at any stage.
“I think they are a determined lot and they are determined to finish the season strongly.”
RANGERS VERDICT…Giovanni van Bronckhorst rues missed opportunity.
Van Bronckhorst, who now has a Europa League semi-final second leg against RB Leipzig on Thursday to plan for with his team 1-0 down from the first game in Germany, admitted: “I think only a win today would give us a chance to close the gap even more.
“It’s still six points with the goal difference in favour of Celtic, so it will be more difficult after today.
“As I said before the game, we needed a win to close the gap to three points. We didn’t, we drew, but I couldn’t have asked for more from my players, what they have given.
“Especially in the second-half, we pushed really hard to come back into the game, which we did, and get good opportunities to win this game in the final 10 or 12 minutes.”
The Dutchman added: “Definitely second-half you saw, after 60-65 minutes, we were getting stronger and stronger.
“We did very well in those moments, created great chances, hit the post. What can you ask for more?
“The only thing is we didn’t score the big chances we had.
“We did everything we could to win this game, but in the end we are two points short.