Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Football Scottish

Proud Smith salutes Rangers players

Rangers manager Walter Smith hailed his players for showing the determination to overcome a controversial refereeing decision and edge an enthralling Old Firm final at Hampden.

Rangers secured the Co-operative Insurance Cup after winning an entertaining contest 2-1 thanks to an extra-time winner from Nikica Jelavic.

But one of the major talking points was Craig Thomson's decision to book Jelavic for diving seconds after pointing to the penalty spot when the Croatian went down under a challenge from Thomas Rogne.

Television pictures showed Rogne's foot had just brushed the knee of Jelavic, who then went down emphatically after a slight delay.

Smith though was more concerned with praising his players for coming out after losing three and drawing one of the four previous Old Firm games in 2011.

Smith said: "I think it was strange to find themselves in a position where they were more or less written off. It was a nice challenge for them and they rose to it very well.

"None of the boys who have been here for a number of years need to prove anything to anybody. They have given everything and played exceptionally well.

"I don't see any reason they have anything to prove, they just have to keep winning.”

Smith insisted the Jelavic penalty incident still mattered despite the result.

“It's dangerous for a referee to do that, very dangerous,” the Rangers manager said.

“If it had been in the other penalty box, I don't know. I just felt a wee bit aggrieved that Jelavic got booked because he gave a

penalty and then he booked Jelavic. He must have thought himself there was something in the decision to give it in the first place.

“I don't know why he changed his mind. He told the players he changed his mind. I would prefer to talk about winning rather than referees but I thought that was a very strange one.”

He continued: “I said before when Celtic were mounting their campaign at the start of the season that if your team is good enough they will win.

“Regardless of a refereeing decision in the game, we have come out of it as good enough to win the game.”

Celtic assistant manager Johan Mjallby felt his team could have had a higher tempo to their passing and been more creative, but his biggest disappointment was the manner in which they conceded the goals.

“I'm probably more disappointed with the way he (Davis) ran through us in the central areas,” the Swede said.

“He didn't really get the best connection and that doesn't usually help the goalkeeper.”

Mjallby questioned whether Vladimir Weiss had been fouled before setting up Jelavic for the winner.

But he added: “It was a quick free-kick, we should be more aware of situations like that.

“When we are chasing the game, we need to be more disciplined.”

Celtic manager Neil Lennon again remained out of the spotlight following the furore over his clash with Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist after the previous Old Firm game.

Lennon was in the stand as he continued his touchline ban, but the dressing-room set-up at Hampden allowed him to deliver a pre-match team talk.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph