AM I ALONE, dear reader, in thinking Philippe Clement spent the bulk of his weekend lamenting to his imaginary friend Hercule about the injustices of life when football management is your chosen profession?

The stoney-faced Belgian stood transfixed on the Hampden touchline on Saturday with the look of someone who had an appointment with a firing squad later that day.

Angst was etched on his frowning features as he failed yet again to get the better of Brendan Rodgers at the fourth time of asking since his mid-October introduction to the Ibrox dug-out following the trapdoor buckling under the burden of the blundering Michael Beale.

Following a draw and two defeats in the Premiership, failure, on this occasion, made itself known in the Scottish Cup Final when Adam Idah rattled in the last-minute winner.

TOUCHLINE TANGO…Brendan Rodgers and Philippe Clement go through the motions at Hampden.

Normally, Clement doesn’t appear slow out of the blocks when it comes to whining about an assortment of grievances, real or otherwise. The state of pitches, the gaps in the net being too big/too small, the dimensions of the corner flags, the whitewash being too white etc.

That being the case, it was open season on referee Nick Walsh and VAR official John Beaton for having the audacity to disallow a Rangers goal, despite video evidence his player, Nico Raskin, clearly utilised both hands in an attempt to propel Joe Hart out of his stride as an inswinging corner-kick from the left dropped into the goalmouth.

The whistler actually missed the 59th-minute offence, but was bailed out by his colleague who spotted the actions of sneaky little Nico on the multi-screens. It had been a clear and obvious error and it was rectified by the technical assistant. That’s why VAR came to life in the first place.

Clement, though, was not happy. The Govan guru cited a push by Liam Scales on Dujon Sterling that went unpunished earlier in the game. Actually, the Belgian egghead had a point.

The Celtic defender was remarkably clumsy as he challenged his opponent, but, if you were being picky, you could say the Ibrox player had a hand on Greg Taylor’s back at the same time.

The referee wasn’t interested. Crucially, the push was outside the box and, in usual circumstances, new technology doesn’t come into play in these occurences.

Inside the penalty area? That’s a different ball game and that seemed lost on this professor of the spherical object.

REF OFF…Nick Walsh’s expression says it all as Philippe Clement has something to say after the final whistle at Hampden.

Okay, Scales, after a rush of blood to the head, may have got away with one. So, that means it’s okay for Rangers players to attempt to launch rival players onto the streets of Mount Florida? Two wrongs making a right? Doesn’t work like that, Phil.

Later, on worldwide satellite TV, he griped: “We had to score at that moment. But when you score and it’s disallowed in that way, it’s disappointing. Especially when I compare it with the push by Scales on Sterling in the first-half. It’s a much bigger push than what happened to Hart.”

To his credit, he delivers these lines with a straight face. Then he chucked in: “I also saw Celtic defenders grabbing my players and having their arms around their necks and waists at that moment.”

Of course, no such impediments to opposing players took place in the Ibrox club’s defence when they prepared for a deadball delivery.

To be fair, Clement’s team did up their game at the national stadium. They did produce a combative performance and their unstinting hard work in the middle of the park did much to suffocate Celtic’s most creative force of Callum McGregor, Matt O’Riley and Reo Hatate for lengthy periods in the contest.

The captain was the pick of the bunch, but his direct opponents were resolute in their efforts to shut him down.

Clement, though, got carried away with his verdict that Rangers were the better team. He added for effect: “I’m disappointed to lose, but even Celtic people – who aren’t neutral – told me we were the better team.”

Really? Which Celtic people? Name names, Phil.

PRIZE GUY…Brendan Rodgers graps the coveted silverware.

Nevertheless, let’s give credit where it is due. There was a lot of endeavour on view from our opponents, but to the tired old eyes of your humble scribe the men from across the river were NOT the better team.

I thought Celtic controlled the first-half without creating too many moments of consternation for Jack Butland.

I don’t recall our own Joe Hart being swamped and tasked with displaying all the ability an ageing and retiring custodian could muster throughout an admittedly keenly-contested confrontation.

Both teams had four shots on target and the holders actually had the bulk of possession. It was far removed from being a convincing show from Brendan Rodgers’ side, but it is to their credit they got the job done.

It wasn’t that long ago that Clement insisted there was no gap between the adversaries. An eight-point advantage to Celtic in the final Premiership table is a compelling argument against that being the case.

The Ibrox gaffer might have to accept that Hampden was as good as it is going to get when these teams share the same field.

And he should remember that second is nowhere in Glasgow.

Get used to it, Phil.


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