STEVEN GERRARD has urged £7million man Ryan Kent to maintain the level of menace he showed in Portugal when he scored the only goal of the game to send Rangers storming through to the last-16 of the Europa League.
The Ibrox men delivered one of their best performances of the season as they merited a 4-2 aggregate victory over Braga – and picked up a £925,000 windfall into the bargain.
Kent has struggled for consistency since his big-money switch from Liverpool in the summer, but he delivered the goods against the Portuguese to fire the Gers into tomorrow’s draw.
The visitors should, in fact, have won more emphatically after passing up three superb chances in the first-half – including a penalty miss from on-loan Genk star Ianis Hagi who, remarkably, became the FOURTH Ibrox player to fail from the spot this season.
Kent, though, sealed the triumph with a surging run and neat finish 16 minutes after the interval to sink Braga who had led 2-0 for an hour in Glasgow last week and looked poised for the next stage.
Gerrard, speaking to Sky Sports News, said: “Ryan is a player that we need that level of contribution from. There have been a lot of opinions on Ryan of late on what type of form he is in.
“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.”
Gerrard also praised defensive duo Connor Goldson and George Edmundson after dropping Nikola Katic who endured a nightmare in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with St Johnstone in Perth.
The Gers gaffer added: “The partnership of the two centre-backs was faultless. George was thrown in at the deep end, but there’s one way to get European experience. At some point a manager has got to trust you to go in, whatever the challenge is.
“He stepped up, he fancied it and he delivered with the help of Connor, who played like a captain, like a leader. He is someone who has had some stick since the weekend, along with the rest of us, so to bounce back and post that type of performance was great.
“We played against high-class opposition, a very dangerous opponent, who are in probably the best form they’ve been in for some time. The players have been outstanding to a man over both games. I’m really proud of them for getting the job done.”