Neil Lennon pointed the finger at Rangers’ indiscipline after Celtic’s 2-1 win over their Old Firm rivals at Parkhead.
Odsonne Edouard opened the scoring in the 27th minute before Gers striker Alfredo Morelos was shown a straight red card by referee Bobby Madden for throwing an elbow at Hoops skipper Scott Brown.
Steven Gerrard’s side dramatically levelled through Ryan Kent in the 63rd minute and, when Celtic defender Dedryck Boyata went off injured in the 74th minute, after Lennon had used all three substitutions, the numbers were levelled.
However, in the 85th minute James Forrest drove in the winner from 12 yards and, in the frenetic finale, Kent knocked Brown to the ground without punishment before players from both sides were involved in a post-match melee.
Gers defender Andy Halliday picked up a second yellow for remonstrating with Brown, who had celebrated in front of the 800 travelling fans, while Scott Arfield was booked during the game along with Brown, Edouard, and Jonny Hayes.
Celtic interim boss Lennon - who confirmed Boyata had picked up a “bad hamstring injury” — responded afterwards to a question about a heated game.
“Not from us,” said the Armagh man. “Brown got elbowed and he got punched in the face or pushed in the face. It was disgraceful.
You can’t put the two in the one basket. Our players kept their discipline very well and really Rangers should have been down to nine men rather than 10.
“If there has been a bit of heat after the game then we will deal with it and if I have to discipline some players, then so be it.
“But during the 94 or 95 minutes, my players were exemplary in their discipline — theirs weren’t.”
Celtic’s win took them 13 points clear of Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premiership with seven games left.
It was Lennon’s first Old Firm game in his second tenure in the dugout and he admitted an afternoon of “endurance” ended well.
“It has been a long time since I have been in the dugout in a Celtic versus Rangers game.
“It was fraught but we scored two great goals. It was a fantastic result, a brilliant win.
“Overall I thought we deserved it but obviously when Rangers scored they gained a psychological edge but we came through and scored a great goal to win it.”
It was a fifth red card of the season for Morelos, albeit the first was rescinded. Rangers boss Gerrard, who confirmed defender Andy Halliday had been shown a second yellow card in an unsavoury post-match melee
gave a simple reply when asked if he could still defend him. “No. Not no more,” he said.
“I have gone above and beyond for Alfredo. I have continued to protect him, support him, and love him as a player and the person he is, but I have to draw the line under it now and he will be punished internally.
“I will recommend to the board that he is fined a week’s wages and will also recommend that that fine should go to the supporters who came today because they are the ones who will suffer from his lack of discipline, also his teammates as well.
“His teammates have done everything they can, my staff and support staff have done everything they can.
“There has been other ill-discipline throughout the team that has hurt us so the rules will change moving forward. I will deal with that.”
Bain, Lustig, Boyata, Ajer, Tierney (Toljan 73), Brown, Ntcham (Rogic 64), McGregor, Forrest, Hayes (Sinclair 46), Edouard.
Subs Not Used:
Simunovic, De Vries, Burke, Weah.
McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, McCrorie, Worrall, Arfield (Davis 88), Jack (Kamara 79), Halliday, Candeias (Defoe 83), Morelos, Kent.
Subs Not Used:
Foderingham, Flanagan, Katic, Coulibaly.
Bobby Madden (Scotland).