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Steven Gerrard insists Rangers beat ‘strong’ Celtic side in Old Firm derby

Celtic v Rangers – Scottish Premiership – Celtic Park
(Image credit: Jane Barlow)

Steven Gerrard stressed that Rangers did not beat an under-strength Celtic side in their 2-0 win at Parkhead.

Nir Bitton, Hatem Elhamed, Ryan Christie and Odsonne Edouard were unavailable to Neil Lennon due to coronavirus issues, with James Forrest and Christopher Jullien still injured.

The Hoops boss gave a debut to new signing, Uruguay international wing-back Diego Laxalt, and 20-year-old defender Stephen Welsh  made his second appearance while Patryk Klimala, usually on the bench, led the line.

The  Ibrox men proved too strong as defender Connor Goldson’s double saw the Light Blues open up a four-point lead over their Old Firm rivals at the top of the Premiership, albeit the champions have a game in hand.

Gerrard said: “Celtic threw everything at us today. You talk about people being missing, but we had Kemar Roofe sitting in the house and we couldn’t start Joe Aribo today.

“We have got our own issues ourselves. We have had issues for five or six weeks.

“Celtic are throwing quality players at us all the way through the game – Turnbull, £3.5million, Kilmala, £3.5million, Ajeti, £5million, their keeper (Vasilis Barkas) is worth £5million.

“We haven’t played a Celtic team with issues, we have beat a strong Celtic team.”

Rangers won their first back-to-back games at Celtic Park since 1995 but Gerrard was also keen to stress that the win was “no message to Celtic”.

He said: “I think it is for us. We have come here again, we have performed well, we have done the job that the players were asked to do.

“But it is not about sending a message. It is still very early, there is a lot of football to be played. We need to remain calm and professional.

“We move on to the next game. We need to be humble, we need to be respectful.

“We know what we are chasing. Celtic are the team to catch, we know that. There is no way we are going to get carried away.

“I am happy with the start we have made, I am happy with where we are.

“But things change. You get tested and challenged through the season. The challenge for us as a group is can we maintain it for the full season.”

Celtic have won the last nine titles and 11 trophies available in Scotland but Lennon told his players that past glories will not necessarily pull them though this time.

He said: “They have done it before but we can’t live off the past either, this is the present.

“We have a title race on our hands and we have to roll our sleeves up and do better.

“I thought we deserved to go in at least level at half-time, we missed a great chance to equalise.

“The second goal is really poor, from a corner we didn’t deal with and one; we didn’t stop the cross and two; we didn’t get first contact and I felt that was the difference between the two teams.

“I thought Rangers defended crosses better.”

Lennon revealed that Edouard, who had to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19 with France Under-21s, will also be a doubt for the Europa League clash with AC Milan on Thursday.

He said: “He’s had cardiac and blood tests and we’ll see how he is. He’s not trained for nearly two weeks and only got back yesterday.

“We can’t take a chance on anyone’s health and he wasn’t ready anyway. We knew he had no chance but couldn’t say it publicly.

“I doubt he’ll be okay for Thursday. It’s not like we can just bring him back in for training. He has to be assessed to see how much the virus has taken out of him.

“It’ll be the same for Bitton and Hatem but Ryan will hopefully get the all clear this week.

“Jullien is still struggling with his back, it’s an ongoing issue we need to get sorted.”