That will sting for a while – Steven Gerrard left to rue late Rangers lapse
Steven Gerrard admits Rangers have a lot to learn after their late Lisbon lapse let Benfica off the hook.
But the Ibrox boss insists his side should be proud of the way they dazzled the Portuguese giants for much of the Europa League clash in the Estadio da Luz.
The Light Blues found themselves behind inside 60 seconds thanks to Connor Goldson’s own goal but former Manchester City defender Nicolas Otamendi’s sending-off turned the game on its head.
Eagles defender Diogo Goncalves levelled the scores as he also netted at the wrong end before Glen Kamara rifled Rangers ahead.
Alfredo Morelos then wrote himself into the Light Blues’ record books as he netted his 22nd European goal for the club but, instead of celebrating a third straight Group D win, Gerrard watched on with frustration as Rafa Silva grabbed a lifeline for the hosts before substitute Darwin Nunez snatched a 3-3 draw in injury time.
Gerrard said: “That will certainly sting for a while. It obviously feels more like a defeat than a positive point right now.
“But once the dust settles I’m sure it will be a valuable point.
“We’ve got ourselves to blame. We started the game really poor for the opening minute and deserved to be one behind.
“We also finished the game poorly as well, so we certainly have a lot to learn from the goals we conceded.
“Having said that, once the red card happened some of the football and some of the creativity we produced and the goals we scored were absolutely fantastic.
“I thought there were periods in the game where we actually played the best we have this season.
“It’s certainly very mixed at the moment. It feels like a defeat because at 3-1 our game management and our order on the pitch should have been better to get us over the line.”
Benfica’s late rescue act means they still have not lost at home in the Europa League, but Gerrard is confident his team are still sitting pretty in the race for the last 32.
“It’s a point closer to where we want to be – but it should be three,” he admitted. “I think we’ll have some real regrets from this game. Of course we will.
“But I think the progress is there and clear for everybody to see, and not just on the evidence of tonight.
“We’ve played some magnificent stuff tonight and deserved to score minimum three goals. We’ve had a fantastic chance with Ryan Kent, another with James Tavernier, the keeper’s made a fantastic save from Buffalo (Morelos).
“We should have gone on and scored more goals tonight but, more importantly, at 3-1 we didn’t have to be gung-ho and so bold and ambitious.
“We needed more order and more game management and that’s the disappointing thing going away from the game, we didn’t play well enough at 3-1, certainly out of possession.”
Morelos has now overtaken Ibrox great Ally McCoist to move clear at the top of the club’s European scoring list and his manager reckons the Colombian is back to his best after a slow start to the season.
“I thought Alfredo was outstanding for the majority of the game. His hold-up play, he was strong for us and got another important goal.
“I thought his performance was probably his strongest of the season.
“Hopefully (we’re now seeing him back to his best). I think the trigger for that was his goal last week, coming on and changing the Lech Poznan game with the header.
“We know that if Buff approaches his work as he has done of late then there’s no doubting his ability and what he can give to the team.
“It’s lovely to see him back contributing in big games and scoring goals for us. It’s a big, big help.”