Giovanni van Bronckhorst admitted Rangers needed to claim victory at Parkhead on Sunday to keep their slim title hopes alive after his side were held to a 1-1 draw by league leaders Celtic.
Rangers were behind at half-time thanks to Jota’s 21st-minute goal, but that proved to be Celtic’s only shot on target in the game as the visitors produced an impressive second-half performance that almost saw them claim all three points.
Fashion Sakala drilled a finish past Joe Hart in the 67th minute before striking the post when one-on-one with the goalkeeper late in the game, and that missed chance means Celtic remain six points clear of their rivals with just three Premiership matches remaining.
Van Bronckhorst admitted Celtic’s superior goal difference – they are 19 goals ahead of Rangers – makes overhauling them even tougher, but was pleased with what he saw from his team after going a goal down.
“We needed a win to close the gap to three points,” Van Bronckhorst told Sky Sports. “We drew but I think we did everything. I couldn’t ask for more from my players today, especially in the second half.
“We pushed really hard to come back into the game and get good opportunities to win this game in the final 10 minutes.
“Only a win today would give us a chance to close the gap even more. It’s still six points and the goal difference is in favour of Celtic, so it will be more difficult after today.”
Rangers were the better side in the second half and, as well as Sakala hitting the post, they also saw Hart pull off a terrific save to deny Scott Arfield.
“We created great chances, we hit the post. What more can you ask?,” said Van Bronckhorst. “The only thing is we didn’t score the big chances we had.”
Postecoglou ‘pleased’ with draw
Ange Postecoglou also felt his side wasted opportunities to claim the three points in the final Old Firm game of the season, but was unsurprisingly happy to walk away with a point given his side’s commanding position in the table.
“It was a cracking game,” Postecoglou told Sky Sports. “It was pretty tight, pretty tense and both teams had chances to get more goals.
“Ultimately I thought it was a good contest between two good teams and I’m pleased we got the draw out of it.
“We had the chances and we don’t take the chances to get that second and the third.
“At the end they had nothing to lose so they were throwing men forward and putting us under pressure, which we kind of expected. We dealt with it OK but it became difficult at times.
“When we had the ascendancy we didn’t take our chances and that keeps the opposition in there. We showed great resilience and we didn’t get beaten which is the most important thing.
“Joe Hart hasn’t made many saves this year but he was outstanding today and that’s why we brought him to this club.”
Boyd: Title race is over
Former Rangers striker Kris Boyd told Sky Sports his former club’s hopes of retaining the title they won last year are over, and they must now turn their attention to their huge Europa League semi-final with RB Leipzig.
Rangers host the German club in the second leg on Thursday, with Leipzig holding a 1-0 lead from the first game earlier this week.
Boyd said Rangers’ performance at Celtic bodes well for their chances of overturning that deficit, as well bouncing back in next season’s title race.
“I thought Rangers were very good, second half especially,” he said. “Fashion Sakala, a fantastic finish and a great opportunity to win it.
“For me, the title’s over anyway. The most important thing was coming here and not getting beat and putting in a performance that you can build on going forward.
“I think Giovanni van Bronckhorst has done that, but the most important thing for Gio and the players was leaving here with no injuries and hopefully getting a few back for Thursday night. Thursday’s a massive game for Rangers.
“But I think, in the second half, Rangers more than showed they’ll be back next year. That little blip around Christmas has cost them the league title for me.”
Sakala: I could have done better
Fashion Sakala’s first goal in nine games earned Rangers their point at Celtic, but the forward – standing in for the injured Alfredo Morelos and Kemar Roofe – felt he should have doubled his tally instead of striking his late opportunity against the inside of Hart’s post.
“It was a very special goal, very important for the team,” Sakala said of his second-half strike. “But I think I could have done better for the second chance I had. I just tried my best.
“We know how important the game was for us and it’s always difficult to come here. We gave everything and we tried, especially in the second half. We gave more than 100 per cent to come back.
“The most important thing for us was three points, that’s what we were looking for. We didn’t come for a draw, the only thing we wanted was a win. We gave everything but the best result for us was to win the game.”
Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, former Scotland forward James McFadden praised Sakala’s display, although he feels the Zambia international can work on his ruthlessness in front of goal.
“You’re always going to be disappointed if you don’t take them,” McFadden said of Sakala’s display. “We’ve all recognised that, in terms of playing as a No 9, coming and taking the ball to feet is maybe not his best attribute.
“But if you can put the ball in behind, he’s got the pace and he’s also got the strength. The timing of his runs are good, the decision-making is good.
“Disappointingly for him maybe the finishing is not there, but I’d be more worried as a striker if you’re not getting chances.”