Strachan proud of beaten Hoops
Gordon Strachan declared himself "proud" of his players despite Celtic surrendering their position at the top of the table to Rangers with an Old Firm derby defeat at Ibrox. The champions had the best of an enthralling 90 minutes in rain-soaked Govan, but a Steven Davis goal before the interval - when the Northern Ireland international slid in a Kenny Miller cross - was enough to separate the sides.
Had Rangers striker Kris Boyd scored his one-on-one with Hoops keeper Artur Boruc in the second half, it might have taken some of the pressure off the home side, who ended up hanging on for the crucial victory which took them two points clear with three games remaining. The Celtic manager was defiant in defeat.
"It's always disappointing when you don't win a game, but I'm proud of them," Strachan said. "To come and play as they did here, was excellent.
"When Rangers scored, I thought we were well in control of the game and then the rest of the game I thought, 'This is good, you are not panicking, you are passing it well and getting to the right areas'. But we just couldn't finish Rangers off.
"I was also pleased by the way we started," Strachan said. "In free play, we did very well and you are not going to get a lot of chances when you go away from home against a good, physical Rangers side with good height. You have to think your way through when you are playing against that sort of bulk."
Strachan, however, bristled when asked his thinking behind dropping fans' favourite Aiden McGeady for Shaun Maloney, who was making his first start in the league this year.
He said: "If I explained that, I would have to explain why I left Jan Vennegoor of Hesseslink out of the League Cup final, why I left out [Shunsuke] Nakamura against Hearts or Scott McDonald at the beginning of the season and I'm not here to explain every decision I make.
"What you see in the references I'm giving you is that it has been done before with every player," Strachan said. "Lee Naylor was left out today and Darren O'Dea played. It is calculated risk leaving them all out, that's what you do as a football manager and no matter who I played, we did enough to win the game of football."
Last season, Celtic had to win their last seven games to clinch the title for the third year in succession and Strachan believes his side can win their final three fixtures this time to put pressure on Rangers, starting against Dundee United at Parkhead on 12 May.
"It's a challenge now," he said. "That's what you get. We had it last year and we have it again. I'm sure the guys would like to be a few points clear, but we have to accept where we are and get on with it. They relished the challenge of coming here and playing and they played well.
"Small things can make a difference. For the goal, we didn't win the header, people were out of position and because of that we were a bit disjointed when the ball came across," Strachan said. " So that's the big disappointment. But after watching the players today, I have every faith in them."