Glasgow Rangers boss Steven Gerrard has hailed winger Ryan Kent’s performance against Braga on Wednesday night, praising the attacker for settling the Europa League game in the Scottish outfit’s favour.
The versatile attacking midfielder scored the only goal of the night in Portugal ,which secured his side’s progression into the Europa League round of 16 with an aggregate score of 4-2.
Rangers had been wasteful in the first half with Ianis Hagi seeing a penalty saved and Florian Kamberi and Kent missing good opportunities to seal the tie.
The Gers finally took the lead through Kent’s expertly taken goal just past the hour mark.
Singling out the goalscorer for praise, Gerrard slammed critics of the 23 year old, who had been under fire for recent performances.
“There have been a lot of opinions on Ryan of late on what type of form he is in,” the Rangers boss said, as reported the Daily Mail.
“But he delivered a big moment for us and he could have had two. He was disappointed with the big chance he had in the first half.
“But I am really happy with him and I don’t just judge him on numbers. I judge him on what he is doing for the team — in and out of possession.
“People don’t give him the credit he deserves, in terms of the amount of running he does for us. But he came big for the team and scored the important goal.
“Hopefully this will do his confidence the world of good because there will be times when people aren’t happy with him and it’s a little bit up and down. That is part of being a footballer at a top club.
“But some of the opinions I have been reading of late on Ryan are ludicrous. He’s a top player.”
The former Liverpool attacker had provided only two assists in the last month across all competitions, which had invited criticism, but the Gers winger responded in style on a big European night.
Rangers have progressed this far in an intercontinental competition for the first time in nine years, another sign of the amazing progress made by the Glasgow club under Gerrard.
“The fact we’ve gone through is special for the football club, the fans and for ourselves and we have got something to fight for,” Gerrard continued.
“The boys know recent form hasn’t been good enough and we expect better and demand more of ourselves.
“Pressure aside from the league, we’ve been doing really well in Europe, so we just went out and showed everyone what we are capable of.”
Gerrard claimed that his Rangers side are the underdogs in the competition and stated that the Gers can use it to their advantage.
“The fact we are the underdogs in this competition means there is less expectation and tension in our play,” he said.
“We go out there and play with more freedom and I felt we got what we deserved.”
Rangers could potentially have mouth-watering matches in the next round against Celtic or Manchester United given the two teams are in with a chance of being in the draw.