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Rangers boss Caixinha admits to nerves in Light Blues camp as Celtic ease to final

By Gavin McCafferty

Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha admitted his assistant had raised concerns about his players' frame of mind before their William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic kicked off.

Caixinha felt his players were too tense as Celtic strolled to a 2-0 victory at Hampden to set up a May 27 showdown with Aberdeen.

Rangers showed some signs of life later in the game, with Kenny Miller having several chances after being moved up front, but Caixinha revealed he had altered his team talk after assistant Helder Baptista's warning.

Caixinha said: "Helder came to me just before the end of the warm-up and told me: 'Please, in your pre-match speech, don't be strong, don't be so tough. They need to feel a little bit more freedom'.

"He thought they were totally focused but not enjoying it.

"Maybe when you are not feeling that freedom, you don't enjoy it and perform the way you need. So we were a little bit blocked. If you are blocked, even if you have the best organisation and ideas in the world, then you cannot perform.

"It wasn't a question of being frightened, it was a question of not letting things flow in the direction you need to take them."

The Portuguese coach went into great detail about how they had intended to close Celtic down high up the park, but they did not press at all effectively and he confessed that "the way we prepared the game and the way we performed the game was totally different".

He added: "I think we gave the opponent too much respect, especially in the first half. We dropped off too much on the park. It was not what we were preparing for during the week.

"We could not annul Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong, who, according to my analysis of previous matches, were the guys that can create all the imbalance.

"If you add the early goal, it was difficult to find a way to have the ball and a way to have counter-attacks.

"At half-time we tried to change things, we changed two players and changed Kenny in order to be more in position to contain Scott Brown.

"We got better in the first four minutes until the penalty, and the penalty changed things for the next 10 minutes.

"At that moment Celtic definitely had the momentum. After that we got into the game and had some chances, but didn't score.

"They deserved to win and we could have done, and should have done, much better."

In contrast, Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers was delighted with the way his side - who already have the Premiership title and League Cup in the bag - handled the occasion as they moved one step away from the treble.

"At 2-0, we were comfortable," he said.

"Going forward we are showing a good balance to our game, but how we can improve is sometimes at 2-0 you are comfortable in the game and sometimes you look for the rest, and you are better to rest with the ball than without the ball. That was my only pointer in the game."

Belfast Telegraph


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