RANGERS manager Philippe Clement has branded the comments his Celtic counterpart Brendan Rodgers made yesterday disrespectful to his team and cranked tensions between the bitter city rivals up a notch ahead of the Old Firm game.

Rodgers stated that the Scottish champions “can have a bit of fun” in the cinch Premiership match against their nearest challengers at Parkhead next Saturday following his side’s comfortable 3-0 triumph over third-placed Hearts.

Clement, whose charges came from behind to beat Kilmarnock 4-1 at Ibrox this afternoon and reduce the league leaders’ cushion at the top of the table to three points, took a dim view of the Northern Irishman’s remarks.

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“That it is something that I would never say about an opponent,” he said. “It’s not really respectful towards my team. That is what I think. So I will never say things like that about an opponent. But okay, we will see.”

Clement was pleased with how his charges, who went a goal down in the first-half when Rangers captain James Tavernier put the ball into his own net, responded to falling behind and admitted he is looking forward to the Celtic game.

“We had a really good start to the game,” he said. “We were fast, we were strong in the duels, we were winning the duels, we were playing forward and creating chances. The VAR thought we should have had a penalty because he asked the referee to the screen. Apparently the referee didn’t agree and it stays a difficult rule for me. 

The Herald: “If I look back at the penalty we get against Kilmarnock here then this one is much more clear. But you need to accept that in that moment and go on. Then you have a situation where the first ball in your box is a goal in a really unlucky way. 

“You need to react as a team and the team did that and that’s what we are working on for a long time. Several times they have come back from a difficult situation and we kept on pushing. 

“We did that all game long to get the best result and that’s three points against a Kilmarnock team we know and spoke about the stat before the game. Since December 3 they only lost twice in the league and that was against Rangers and nobody else. So to do that three times in a row is a huge achievement."

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 Clement added: “We are going to fight until the very end, but I didn’t need that game today for that. We were all disappointed about the two results (the defeat to Ross County andd draw with Dundee) and that’s what the team did. 

“For me, that’s the basic of being a team and becoming a good team, is to never give up. The team did that already several times and they know they can do it. We will go on with that mindset until the last second of the season.’ 

“I am looking forward to that and to be honest as a manager I would love that it was tomorrow instead of next week. But that is maybe not so good for my players! We are really hungry for that game.

“Six months ago we were seven points behind and now we are three points behind and we can come equal. The team has already done a lot of steps and now it is about making the next step.”

Rangers centre half Leon Balogun failed to reappear for the second-half yesterday due to a strain he suffered, but Clement is hopeful the problem is not too serious and the Nigerian internationalist will be available to play against Celtic.   

“He was injured that is why I had to replace him,” he said. “I hope it is a small muscle injury. We will see in the next couple of days. But he struggled too much to continue.”

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Celtic are three points clear of Rangers with three games remaining and also have a superior goal difference of five – but Clement stressed that he was not frustrated that his side had not been able to net more against Kilmarnock.

The Herald: Ben Davies celebrates scoring his first goal for Rangers with his team mates at Ibrox this “Frustration is a bad word if you score four goals,” he said. “Of course you want more goals like any manager. But I know also that teams struggle against a team of 10 (Joe Wright was sent off in the first-half) who are all defending to create these opportunities. 

“So in that way we did a lot of things good and scored good goals. We missed a penalty and it should have been five. Efficiency is never perfect. You have maybe one or two games in your career as a manager where every chance is a goal. 

“I didn’t have this moment yet, so I am hoping maybe next week or the next couple of months it will happen once. I think it is not the moment to speak about that. First of all it is about getting the three points. It is now for next week to go full for three points and after that we can speak about those things.”