Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Hibs hand Rangers huge title advantage

Hibernian 0 Celtic 0

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan insists he could ask no more from his players after their quest for their fourth Clydesdale Bank Premier League title suffered a blow when they were held to a goalless draw by Hibernian at Easter Road.

The champions went in to the game knowing a win would take them back top over Rangers on goal difference.

But despite dominating most of the 90 minutes the Hoops could not find a way through a resolute Leith defence and the result left the Ibrox side two points clear.

Celtic host Hearts at Parkhead next week in the last game of the season while Rangers travel to Dundee United knowing any sort of win would guarantee them their first title in four years.

Strachan, however, defended his side’s performance, saying: "I could not have asked for any more from the players.

"I went round them all and said they could not do any more than that apart from put the ball in the back of the net.

"If I said to Aiden McGeady, Paul Hartley and Shunsuke Nakamura, I want you to keep the ball all day and make chances, get to the touchline, get corner kicks and free-kicks, then they did that.

"I can’t change what I asked from them.

"What you hope for is goals and that has been our failing in the last two away games."

Strachan believes his side kept playing the right way even through the frustration of failing to get the breakthrough.

He said: "There was no panic.

"It wasn’t a frantic game, we didn’t throw balls in the box, we got in to crossing positions, moved them about and when the ball went in to the box, they were always there, always blocking with their keeper making terrific saves."

Caldwell could not resist a dig at Hibs’ tactics while putting some pressure on Rangers ahead of their trip to Tannadice.

He said: "I don’t think the Old Firm have managed to win at Tannadice all season so if Rangers are going to win it they are going to play well to do it.

"We did everything but score. We passed the ball against a team who sat in, didn’t come out and didn’t want to play the game.

"It would have been easy for us to start lumping it but we were very brave and tried to create.

"We had half chances that you’ve got to take but scoring goals was the problem."

Hibs manager Mixu Paatelainen refused to be drawn on the fact that Celtic had complained about Rangers having a third trip to Easter Road after the league split in to two, as opposed to another trip to Tynecastle to play Hearts.

Hibs held the Ibrox men to a 1-1 draw in midweek but the implication from Parkhead was that Easter Road was an easier fixture for the Govan side.

But the Hibs boss said: "There were some things said when the fixtures came out but I didn’t pay any attention to them.

"My job is to concentrate on how we play and how we pick up points. We don’t want to dwell on what other people do. I thought defensively we were rock solid.

"All the players were fully focused, on the front foot and concentrated.”

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