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Rangers played like heroes to win Europa League clash in Croatia, says Gerrard

 

By Ronnie Esplin

Steven Gerrard hailed "heroic performances" after his Rangers side claimed a 1-0 Europa League qualifying victory over Osijek in Croatia.

Alfredo Morelos fired the Ibrox men to their first European away win for a decade. It was also a third clean sheet in three competitive games under the new Gers boss.

"I thought the performance was strong and I thought defensively, we were very good," said Liverpool legend Gerrard. "I thought there were some heroic individual performances in among that.

"We asked the players before the game, 'Can we keep another clean sheet, and can we get a very important away goal?'

"So the players have delivered and I am very happy and satisfied so far, but at the same time, we have a lot of respect for the opposition, there is still work to do and we need another big performance in seven days' time."

Should the Gers prevail in the second leg next Thursday, either Maribor or Georgian outfit Chikhura Sachkhere lie in wait.

Those sides are tied at 0-0 after the first leg.

With their first away success in Europe since defeating Sporting Lisbon on their way to the Uefa Cup final in 2008, Rangers have earned a great chance of reaching the third qualifying round.

Gerrard handed debuts to Lassana Coulibaly and Ryan Kent, and he was delighted with their contribution.

“I am very pleased with them,” added the Ibrox boss. “If you take into consideration, Ryan Kent has only played two 45 minutes in friendly games, and he still has another level to go in to.

“It was a positive debut and he looked dangerous and the supporters can see what type of player he is going to be.

“Lassana was majestic and he covered every blade of grass.

“He was tough, he won tackles, he won duels, he gave us energy and he broke play up for us.

“That is his first 90 minutes — can you imagine what he is going to be like after five or six performances and five or six games in his legs?

“Tonight wasn’t a performance in terms of our attacking players — it wouldn’t have looked great on the eye.

“But that is how you get success in Europe — you have got to come to places like this, weather the storm, be difficult to play against, not concede goals and try to get something at the other end.

“It was a wonderfully-worked free kick and we got our rewards. I feel a lot more positive here than I did for the Shkupi performance.”

Morelos’s winner also earned praise from Gerrard.

The manager continued: “We are very happy with him. His application and his workrate in training, and on and off the pitch, has been superb.

“I think he got his reward tonight for that — his performance was selfless and he ran his socks off, and the team, the goalkeeper are thanking him and giving him credit for the shift he put in for us.”

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