“PROUD” is how Steven Gerrard declared himself following tonight’s tremendous 2-2 draw with Villarreal at Estadio de la Ceramica.
The Light Blues gaffer watched his side deservedly hold the La Liga outfit with Scott Arfield and Kyle Lafferty twice equalising for the visitors to get their Europa League campaign off to a superb start.
Speaking afterwards to RangersTV, a delighted Gerrard said: “It is a fantastic result and a result where I am very proud of the players tonight in terms of their effort and application.
“I asked them at half-time to just show a little bit more belief and confidence once we enter the final third because our build-up play and our football in the first half but I thought when we got into areas we didn’t really captialise on our good play.
“But the second half performance was very strong and there were some big performance out there again for us. The players deserve a lot of credit again.
“I think if you take into consideration the stage, the opponent and the qualities of their individuals, it is certainly right up there [in terms of best performances so far].
“They are certainly in a false position in terms of league. They finished fifth last season and spent 70million.
“I am sure they will move up the table in time. For us to come here as a side which is relatively new and still in the early stages, to come and perform as we did, certainly in the second half, the players have to take confidence and belief from that.
“We are a good team when we show it, when we believe and when we go for the jugular. We can create chances against anyone.”
Gerrard watched not only his starting 11, but all three subs contribute immensely and he continued: “For me, being the manager of this club, it’s not about the 11 or the 14 – it is about the squad. You saw Graham Dorrans come on for a cameo and went on one of those mazy runs which almost opened the door for us to win the game.
“It was just immense quality and Glenn Middleton came on to help set the goal up. That is what we need from our subs and the 11. You will see a few changes before the weekend, and come the end of the season, everyone will have enough appearances to be happy with. They just have to trust me when they are in or when they are out they have to be ready.”
Gerrard said before the game there was a quiet confidence Gers could make it out the group, and, buoyed by tonight’s result he said: “We watch opposition games very closely through the staff and the analysts. We don’t tell the players lies and we don’t give them false belief.
“We told them before the game, we are capable of hurting Villarreal and the other teams in the group. There is no point in us showing tremendous play in the first two phases and then getting to the last phase and not carrying it out and believing and going and delivering.
“We have unbelievable quality and we have people who can go and put the ball in the back of the net. The big message tonight is watch the second half tonight and start believing you are a very good team.”
Gers had late opportunities through Glenn Middleton and Scott Arfield to potentially win the game, but with Villarreal also missing chances, Gerrard declared himself more than happy with the point.
He continued: “It could have gone either way! I’m not going to stand here and say we deserved to win the game as they had a couple of decent opportunities at the end as well and we respect the opponent.
“But to come here and put a point on the board, I’d have certainly taken it before the game. This, on paper, is probably the toughest test for us in the group so we are taking something away which I am very happy about.
“On another day, we might have nicked it and got three massive points but we are satisfied.”