Gio van Bronckhorst plays down Rangers winner debate as he makes Fashion Sakala claim

Gio van Bronckhorst savored the best four days of his managerial career and insisted the entire Rangers ‘family’ should celebrate it with him.

The Ibrox boss guided his side to a sensational Scottish Cup semi final win over Celtic at Hampden just after qualifying for the last four of the Europa League by beating Braga.

And with both victories coming after strength-sapping extra time, the Dutchman made sure everyone at Ibrox was included in the words of praise he uttered in the aftermath of yesterday’s triumph.

Van Bronckhorst said: “It was a very proud moment for me to see my side play like that. We had to dig deep after a demanding game against Braga.

“But our character was phenomenal, especially because we knew that Celtic were coming at us fresh.

“In the moment the guys did terrific.

“If you play in Old Firm games with 50-50 the crowds are amazing, especially our crowd. We went behind and they pushed us to keep going and try to force the equalizer.

“You can see the emotion with the winning goal from Sakala and the whole stand behind the goal celebrating like crazy.

“For those moments you are a player, a coach, a media guy, a physio, a doctor – if you see the celebrations we celebrate as a whole, as a club. These moments are meant to be for celebrating with each other. But we have to do it again in a month.”

The Dutchman, having beaten Celtic, won’t accept falling at the final hurdle against Hearts on May 21. Within minutes of this victory, he was setting his sights on silverware, saying: “It’s a proud moment. Of course I won two cups here in my career as a player but if you have these moments as a coach you are more proud because you are responsible for the result.

“When a team is not playing well you are also the one who is looked at. It is a proud moment for me to come back here next month and play the cup final against Hearts.

“It’s a good game to finish the season but, again, the final is only nice when you win it.”

The Gers gaffer had no doubt his team deserved their victory, carved out by Scott Arfield – who missed a sitter against Braga – equalizing before the extra time winner, claimed by Fashion Sakala, even if it looked like Carl Starfelt jabbed the ball behind Joe Hart for an own goal.

“I was asking after the game ‘who scored the winning goal?’ he said. “I saw him (Sakala) sliding in…but who cares?”

Fashion Sakala bundles home Rangers’ winner

“In the first-half we created good chances to score. But when we got the goal against us we knew we had to dig even deeper. But in this moment we were there.

“The substitutions made quite a positive impact for the team – fresh legs. We controlled the game after that.

“You know when you are playing a semi-final and it goes to extra-time players get tired and make more mistakes. We know that when we scored in the second-half of extra-time it was a vital moment. Luckily for us we scored the winner.

“We know that when we play the way we can this team has a lot of character. That was the thing that happened today. But also physically I think we looked really strong. Aaron Ramsey came off with an injury, but most of the players looked really strong, throughout the extra-time as well. We were able to change some players. It is always nice to win a semi-final, but it is nice when the subs make contributions. It was a real team performance and that is what I am most proud of.”

The Welshman suffered a hamstring injury which may rule him out of the run-in but the picture will be clearer after a scan.

Van Bronckhorst added: “He had a problem with his hamstring. It didn’t look really good. We will have to assess him, but of course it is a blow for us that he will be out. “I don’t know for how long. We just have to assess him tomorrow and see where he is.”

Otherwise, it was a perfect day for Rangers and their manager admits that after a few days’ rest, his players will be rare to go again.

“It has been a terrific week for us winning against Braga and winning today and reaching the cup final,” he said. “The momentum this week has been perfect. We have a lot of games to play in the next few weeks so it gives us a lot of confidence. But in every game you have to start all over again.

“We are going to use this week to refresh, recover and rest and make sure everyone is ready for the last weeks of the season.

“It’s good to be involved in these competitions in April and even May. It means you are doing a good job but we have to keep going and keep working hard to eventually win something at the end of the season. That’s why we work hard. You come back to the training ground and invest in your own development. That’s what we keep on doing. But first of all we will relax.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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