Giovanni van Bronckhorst was left fuming with his Rangers team after their first-half Old Firm capitulation against Celtic.
Celtic blew Rangers away in the second Old Firm clash of the season to seal a 3-0 win. The result means Celtic are one point above Rangers and top the Scottish Premiership for the first time since August.
The platform for their dominant victory was laid in the first half where two goals from the impressive Reo Hatate and Liel Abada’s strike just before the break put Celtic firmly in control.
Van Bronckhorst, who was suffering his first defeat as Rangers boss, was left dumbfounded and angry regarding his team’s first-half performance.
“It’s very disappointing. It seemed like it was the first Old Firm derby we played,” Van Bronckhorst told Sky Sports.
“We know what the environment is, the ambiance, the pressure. But it seemed like we weren’t ready for it. The way we gave the goals away, it’s sharpness. I can’t say otherwise. Not going with your man, not ready for the battles. It was an unbelievable first-half performance. We were much better in the second half.
“That’s where our Old Firm derby started. We were much more aggressive. But in the first half we gave the game away.
“We had an honest conversation in the locker room after the game, it’s obvious we weren’t the way we wanted.
“These kind of games are always difficult. All we have to do is stick together and make sure we look forward and be ready for Sunday against Hearts.
“It’s a very tough environment to come to, but we’re not the first Rangers team to lose. I lost very big here when I was a player but we eventually became champions that year.
“Of course we wanted to win but these games don’t decide a championship. We still have many games to play and we have to be ready.”
Postecoglou: We are not the finished article
Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou was full of praise for his team’s performance but warned there is still much more to come.
“I’ve had some special moments in football but that’s one I’ll remember,” he told Sky Sports.
“I’m very proud. The first half was outstanding. We scored three goals and the football we played was just brilliant. We could have had a few more but Allan McGregor was outstanding in their goal. In the second half we showed we can defend if we need to, full credit to the players. We knew the consequences. There was pressure on us and the players handled it superbly.
“We’re not the finished article. We’ve changed the whole team. Guys have come in without having a bedding-in process. We’ve got some quality players unavailable at the moment. We’re going to be stronger, we have to be stronger and we want to be stronger. That’s the key for us. We want to be better.
“It’s a sign of our progression. We lost three of our first six games. Everyone knows how the Scottish Premiership works. We couldn’t afford not to get out of that quickly. We’ve been under pressure for a long time. The players haven’t been focused on points or position in the table. Our focus is on playing our football, whether we are first won’t matter.”
Postecoglou praised Hatate, signed from Kawasaki Frontale in January, but, again, warned that improvement is to be expected once the player gets up to full fitness.
He said: “He’ll get better. It’s only his third game. He’s nowhere near the levels of fitness that are required but we’ll build him up slowly. It was great for him to get his goals.”
Pundit reaction: Celtic have laid down a marker
James McFadden said: “It’s a phenomenal transition for Celtic to get to where they are. To put a performance in like that in the first 45 minutes was absolutely incredible baring in mind Rangers won the league by 25 points last season. This team is still improving. And they won’t stop. They won’t relent. It’s the way the manager plays. They have laid a marker down. The challenge is now for Rangers to catch them. They were really soft tonight. They were miles off it.
“I think they were intimidated tonight. Some players didn’t cope with the demands of the game. Rangers came into the game with the pressure of losing top spot if they lost and they didn’t cope. Ryan Jack came on and had that mentality to deal with it but too many players didn’t have it and that would worry me looking ahead for the remainder of the season.”
Ally McCoist said: “Rangers were abysmal tonight, especially in the first 45 minutes. They were slightly better in the second half when Ryan Jack came on. But that is a major wake-up call for Rangers. They were way off tonight and beaten by a far, far better side. Van Bronckhorst will have to have a meeting with those lads and regroup. He needs to sit them down, show them that video because they were outplayed and worryingly outfought.”
Kris Boyd said: “If it wasn’t for Allan McGregor, Rangers could have been on the end of a 5-0 or 6-0 defeat. That’s how dominant Celtic were. Rangers really struggled to cope with Celtic’s movement. That has happened before against other teams but when you look at the players Rangers have got they would have been able to understand Celtic’s play. The back four were really poor. The night belongs to Celtic.”