Here is every word Philippe Clement had to say following Rangers’ stunning 3-2 win over Real Betis to qualify for the Last 16 of the Europa League.
How proud are you of your team’s performance?
Big pride, really proud of them. I saw today what I wanted to see, the things we’ve worked on the last couple of weeks. I want to see a team of winners, that never gives up, a team where everyone is involved, starting or not starting. That’s what they did today. They played a big game. I said before I wanted to see a brave team, not one who only wants to defend but a team that was brave on the ball, playing our football and they did. In the second half Betis became stronger and stronger but then we dug in, stayed together, worked hard and then the moment came. I cannot be more proud as a coach after this short period together.
It’s the first time Rangers have beaten a Spanish team in Spain and the first time Real Betis have lost at home and conceded more than one goal, how pleased are you about that?
I’m lucky, I’ve had some good nights already. But for sure it’s one of the great nights. The bad thing about me is that I’m already thinking to the next one. I’ve had some special feelings when I was at Genk and with Brugge but this is the first time with that feeling with this team. I’m really happy with the evolution we’re making, mentally, physically, technically and tactically. We’re making steps and there’s still a long way to go. The frustrating thing for me is that I had to make a change at half-time when Cifuentes picked up a muscle injury, so I’m not happy about that. But then you saw Dijon came in and played a really good game in midfield. That’s the mentality we need, everybody fighting for the team but with quality on the ball. We scored three really good goals, so I don’t think any coach can be more pleased than I am. There were a lot of records to break. A little bit like you got to the Olympics. You do the high jump and put the bear that high and everyone thinks its impossible. But then you jump over it. That’s what the boys did today, by doing the right thing without the ball, being brave, never giving up and showing quality. So this needs to be the reference for the rest of the season. If we stick together, then you see we can do amazing things together.
What can that result do for the team ahead of Sunday?
Nothing. For me, there is no difference because we have won against Betis. It’s a different game. Of course, this will give us confidence, but we need to see now that we stay with our feet on the ground. It’s a totally different game and opponent. The biggest thing today is that everyone in the dressing room knows that if they stick together and work hard, they get the rewards. “But it’s just one game of football so we are going to go really hard to win this first trophy. But we need to be humble also.
Cyriel Dessers has come in for some criticism this season, how pleased were you with his goal?
Not only the goal but the work he did. Cyriel was one of the guys on the plane who I talked to with the video to improve things, and you see he is really working hard to do the things how we want the striker to play. He’s stepped into the story, he’s working hard for the team and he is getting chances to score. Then he is getting the confidence of his teammates and coaches, so I’m really pleased for him. Also Sam [Lammers], who had a lot of stick the last couple of months, I hear. He played a really good game as well. The past is the past, all the things that happened weeks and months ago are not important – it’s about the story we’re going to continue in the next weeks and months.
Are you excited at the prospect of a prolonged run in the Europa League?
It’s already a big achievement to come first in this group, against a team like Betis and also a good team like Sparta Prague who play really good football and who will also go a long way in Europe, I think. I’m really pleased about that. It’s also a statement and a good thing for Scottish football. To take this spot, it’s important for the co-efficient and for the future. We’re going to play now a little bit later. We’re going to start Europe now in March, which means two games fewer in February. That’s good that we can use that period to make the team stronger with more training.
How satisfying an evening was it to get the better of Manuel Pellegrini given the squad you had at your disposal?
It’s a story together. To be honest, it was not so tough, the choices. I hope I have much more tough choices in the next couple of months. Everyone did their job to the full. They were all focused and concentrated to do what they had to defensively but also using the spaces we knew we could get against Betis.