Rangers boss Steven Gerrard believes it’s important to take the positives from drawing with Benfica, even though his side lost the lead against the Portuguese side for the second time this season.
The Portuguese side came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2- at Ibrox in the Europa League match, having come from three goals down to draw in the previous game between the sides.
Gerrard praised his side for the quality of their goals after Scott Arfield pounced to score the opener and Kemar Roofe thundered in another eye-catching strike, and he was unhappy to see his side denied a penalty when Jan Vertonghen looked to handle in the box. And he said that perspective would see the final score appreciated as a good result, even if the late setbacks had stung.
“Yes, there’s disappointment,” he said. “But when you go over it as we did a couple of weeks ago, when the emotion settles, then I think it will be a positive result.
“I think over the 90 minutes it was a fair result, even at 2-0 I didn’t think we deserved to be two in front.
“I didn’t think we had full control of the game. But you have to remember we are playing a top team, they are not a Europa League team in my opinion.
“They are a Champions League team. They’re the fourth biggest spenders in world football.
“They have a great manager with a great pedigree so we have to be positive about the result.
“We would certainly have taken this position we are in now when the group started. Of course, at 2-0 up we are slightly disappointed that we didn’t get the qualification done.
“But we are playing against top players and a top team. Benfica found some weaknesses in our performance towards the end of the game when we tired and we paid for it.
“But I will certainly go away and take the positives from the two games against Benfica. For where we are as a team, for us to compete against Benfica over two games is a big positive for me.”
Gerrard said that he believed his side showed a degree of tiredness in the later stages from putting in so much effort, and that Benfica had the quality to punish every mistake from that point on.
“What you have to commit to that game in terms of fitness and concentration levels, the leg work you have to put in – that’s what these top teams do to you,” he said.
“They work you from side to side and keep the intensity up for 90 minutes.
“Then when you make one or two small errors, they make you pay. That’s what they did.
“We had to empty the tank for 70-75 minutes and we tired as a group. That’s when we had a few complications. That’s a learning experience for us as a group.
“We don’t really play this kind of team domestically so we need to keep learning and growing, trying to add better players to our group, so in the future we become better and stronger towards the end of games at this level.”