Brendan Rodgers spoke about being under intense media pressure going into Celtic’s impressive 1-0 cinch Premiership win over Rangers at Ibrox.
The Hoops went into the game on the back of a loss to Kilmarnock in the Viaplay Cup and a home draw to St Johnstone and with some key players missing, but Kyogo Furuhashi’s late first-half strike stretched their lead over Rangers to four points after four games.
After the game, Rodgers said: “I understand I have been placed on death watch by the media.
“But whatever the result today I’m an experienced manager now and I’m staying calm.
“But that’s where you are powerless as a coach.
“For me I understand what we have, I understand what we are missing.
“Until we get the level of player back that will make a difference in some of our games we have to keep working and developing and improving and I have absolutely no doubt we will do that as the season grows.
“But listen, it’s three wins and a draw in the league and some of the games have been good, but we are still piecing together a team which will look a lot more like it by the end of the season.”
Rangers were aggrieved at a VAR decision that went against them in the first half.
Celtic defender Gustaf Lagerbielke was challenged by Cyriel Dessers just inside the Hoops half and the Gers attacker raced clear and squared the ball for Kemar Roofe, who took a touch before firing past Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart.
When referee Don Robertson checked the pitchside monitor at the behest of the VAR, he ruled the goal out for a foul on the Hoops defender, albeit it looked soft.
Rodgers said: “Listen, there is enough people looking at it now. As I said to Gus at half-time, ‘you’ve got to learn your lesson there’.
“You’ve got to get the passing going quicker and he maybe needs another angle there quicker. But in saying that, as he turns around, he gets a nick.
“If you are Michael (Beale) and Rangers supporters you are maybe aggrieved. But at that point of the game we were dominating.
“So if we had conceded then I wouldn’t have been so happy.
“But they had a good look at it for long enough, so we accept the decision.”
Amid an ongoing ticket spat between the clubs there were no travelling supporters – Celtic rejected the offer of around 700 tickets, citing safety concerns – which irked Rodgers.
He said: “It’s not the same game. It’s not the same game and it’s such a shame.
“Look, it’s brilliant for us. Our resilience and everything we had to show as Celtic players was there today. As a group we had to withstand a lot, but it’s not the same game.
“When there is not a single supporter there for you then you know you have to be a man. And for this group of players to come and do that and get the victory was absolutely brilliant.
“Listen, I hope between the two clubs we can do that at some point.
“It’s obviously going to be a challenge this year, so it’s another year. But it’s not the same games.
“If you asked Rangers supporters, I’m pretty sure some of their best wins they have seen from their team were away at the other ground.
“Hopefully we will get back to that. Whether it’s 7,000 or 8,000 or whatever, it’s an iconic game, an amazing game.
“And a big part of it is the supporters. So hopefully in time we can get that back.
“But for us today to come here with no supporters and win…hopefully wherever they are, Celtic supporters across the world will be proud of their team.”