Rangers manager Steven Gerrard says he asked his players just how much they wanted to win the Old Firm derby during an impassioned half-time team talk before they went on to beat Celtic at Ibrox.
The hosts produced a lacklustre first-half performance but Nir Bitton’s 62nd-minute sending off tipped the balance of the game before Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor directed James Tavernier’s corner into his own net.
The result gives Rangers an imperious 19-point lead over their bitter rivals and Gerrard said he was ‘really proud’ of his players as they tightened their grip at the top of the Scottish Premiership table.
‘It’s another big three points, it’s another clean sheet so I’m really proud of the team in terms of their efforts,’ he told Sky Sports shortly after the final whistle.
‘First half, we weren’t good enough, we weren’t ourselves. I thought we were second best in a lot of areas and for large parts of the first half.
‘I thought there was a massive improvement in the second half. We were getting up to people, we were more aggressive, more physical, we were believing in ourselves and what we were doing.
‘So I was more pleased from 45 until the sending off with the improvement and then obviously the sending off is a big major incident in the game and it looked like there was only going to be one winner from there.’
Asked what he said in the dressing room at the half-time break, Gerrard replied: ‘I just asked them how much they wanted to win the derby. That was the only question they needed to be asked.
‘If you want to win an Ibrox, especially here at Ibrox – we’re protecting our stadium and our supporters – you can’t be passive or second best. You’ve got to let Celtic know they are in a game.
‘Credit to Celtic, I thought they played really well in the first half. But we were outstanding in the cup final for 90 minutes not so long and got nothing for it. It’s about the end result.
‘We won the game, we stretch our lead, we remain humble and we move on to Aberdeen.’
Asked for his reaction to McGregor’s display, Gerrard said: ‘Wow, outstanding.
‘He’s a world-class goalkeeper… the couple of saves he’s made to keep us in it.
‘Outstanding and reliable, trustworthy. I already knew but I know even more now why he’s been so successful at this club because he’s bailed us again on a couple of occasions.’