STEVEN GERRARD was thrilled with Rangers’ second half performance to defeat Hibernian tonight in the Scottish Premiership.
Iainis Hagi marked his starting debut with a stunning winner just five minutes from the end – and Gerrard reckons he was the “spark” his side needed.
The manager told RangersTV: “It is a big win for us, and I am delighted with the second half performance. We scored at a really good time before the break, but I thought it was the least we deserved.
“I thought the first half performance was a little bit hit-and-miss. We were trying some good things and I could see some good things but we were also giving possession away by going too long too early.
“The second half, I demanded a bit more and the players were outstanding across the board. Buff [Alfredo Morelos] was more like himself, being a right, big handful up there for us.
“Hagi’s match-winning performance – he’ll deserve all the headlines, but I thought his general play was outstanding in the second half.
“I think he was coming to terms with the league and what it is about in the first half, but, what a performance on your full home debut second half and the finish is outstanding.
“But we are a lot better across the board in the second half and we deserved the win in the end.
“We pushed and pushed and created more chances and we could have won more convincingly, but Hibs are a threat with some good players who are a threat, but we thoroughly deserved the three points.
“We showed good character to be level by half time, but I said to them, if we play better and we trust each other with the ball and we keep probing and creating, and we don’t risk it too early, our chances will come.
“We were very bold with our team selection today, so I had trust and faith that the players could keep creating and we did.
“Buff is unlucky not to score, Joe Aribo should have scored, the keeper has made a couple of saves and we have had a lot of set-pieces so it was more like us in the second half and there was certainly a spark there – but Hagi was the spark.
“I think what we did with our second half performance is we got the fans back where we need them.
“I think we, and deservedly so, we had to lift them. Our form since we have come back, there have been a few groans and a bit of frustration about, but I think we have given them that.
“So I needed the team to put in a performance second half to lift them and get them back where we need them.
“I thought their second half performance matched ours.”
The quality of Hagi’s strike thrilled the gaffer who continued: “From the side, you are almost saying ‘take a touch’ – as the defender was five or 10 yards away – but what do I know from the side!?
“It’s an exquisite finish right into the side netting next to the post, and I thought his second half performance and him just having the character, the personality and the guts to receive the ball in any situation – whether there be one man round him or two men round him – he just makes the game look really easy.
“He’s an intelligent player and if that is the start as he means to go on, I am really looking forward to seeing him play.”
The manager was also pleased with George Edmundson on only his second league start, adding: “He was very solid. We have obviously conceded a goal, and Allan [McGregor] will be disappointed by it. He has been phenomenal for me as a goalkeeper, but I think when he watches that back, he will probably say to himself, ‘should I have come or should I have stayed?’
“I’m sure he’ll discuss that with Colin Stewart, but once he does come, he has to do better. But, he has saved us many, many times before so maybe we can excuse him from criticism.”