Philippe Clement reveals what Celtic staff told him as Rangers boss claims his side COULDN'T have done more

Philippe Clement took a swipe at ref Nick Walsh and VAR for chalking off a goal he believes would have won Rangers the Scottish Cup.

His side were on top in Saturday's Hampden final against Celtic and thought they’d struck first through Abdallah Sima after an hour. But after a VAR check, Walsh ruled it out for a push by Nico Raskin on Hoops keeper Joe Hart. Clement was raging with the decision - citing an earlier push in the game by Liam Scales on Dujon Sterling that went unpunished. The Belgian is convinced that if Sima’s goal was allowed to stand, Rangers would have got their hands on the trophy.

Instead, the Ibrox side conceded a 90th minute goal to Celtic striker Adam Idah who pounced on a Jack Butland mistake to win it. Afterwards, Clement couldn’t hide his frustration at Walsh’s decision. He said: “We had to score at that moment today. But when you score and it’s disallowed in that way, it’s disappointing. Especially when I compare it with the push by Scales on Sterling in the first half. It’s a much bigger push than what happened to Hart.

“I also saw Celtic defenders grabbing my players and having their arms around their necks and waists at that moment. It was a really big call to disallow that goal. It’s their decision. They’re honest but that’s a grey one, not white or black, and he made the decision. But of course, as a manager I’m disappointed.”

It was Rangers’ fifth straight defeat to Celtic this season as they finished the campaign with just one trophy, the League Cup. But on Saturday they competed better than they have done previously against their Old Firm rivals and Clement felt pride in their performance. He says even Celtic officials told him Rangers were the better side at Hampden.

Clement said: “I’m disappointed to lose but even Celtic people - who aren’t neutral - told me we were the better team today. So it’s mixed feelings. We did everything to win and everyone worked really hard.

“I’m proud of what the team showed today. But do we need to take steps? Yes. I’m sure if we’d scored to make it 1-0, we would have got a second on and won the game.

“Everyone felt we had control in the game and Celtic were getting tired. But you need players in those big moments and I expected more from my players coming on. We were grabbing the game and there was a lot of space.

“But some of our players are coming back from injury and you could see that was decisive in key moments. They gave their best but I have to create a squad next season who are fitter for the full season so I’m not juggling with players like today.”

Butland has been Rangers’ saviour for most of the season with top saves and terrific displays. But he spilled Bernardo’s shot late on and Idah was on hand to punish them. Afterwards, Clement refused to blame his keeper for the error.

He said: “Should Jack have done better? No, I don’t think so. It’s a really difficult shot and Jack, for the rest of the game, was really good. So no, I don’t think so. You can always talk about details and say he should have pushed the ball to the side. But the ball was moving in the air. It was a really unlucky moment for us.”

Clement now has a summer rebuilding job on his hands so Rangers can put up a stiffer challenge to Celtic for honours next season. For out-of-contract stars like John Lundstram, Borna Barisic, Ryan Jack and Leon Balogun - it might be their last day at the club.

And even though it won’t be easy with limited finances, Clement says he’s ready for the challenge. He said: “In moments like today, you need to bring in fresh players who can make the difference and that was difficult for us.

“This needs to give players fuel to come back in the summer and work really hard. Because they feel how close it is (between Rangers and Celtic) and next season we want to win those kinds of games.

“If you see the game we played today, no-one would have expected that from us six months ago. Of course, you want to win but it’s about grabbing these moments. We’re going to work on that.

“It’s a massive challenge in the summer because there is not much time, that’s the reality. We have qualifying games for the Champions League in August and we have to rebuild the squad.

“We have players who will leave the building and we must replace them without money coming in. We need to be really inventive with our transfers and do smart things. It’s going to be challenging but we’re working on it already.”