Steven Gerrard admitted he plunged Joe Worrall into the Europa League deep end by handing him a surprise debut against Villarreal.
The on-loan Nottingham Forest centre-back had not featured since moving north on transfer deadline day.
But the England Under-21 international was given the nod to take on the LaLiga big guns as he came in to replace the previously ever-present Nikola Katic.
And he got off to the worst possible start when he inadvertently teed up Carlos Bacca for a stunning opener just 44 seconds in.
But Gerrard was delighted with how the 21-year-old responded as he helped the Ibrox men claim a hugely impressive 2-2 draw at El Madrigal in their Group G opener.
He said: “I put him right in the deep end. He was in a sink-or-swim situation.
“When a manager gives you your debut away in the Europa League, against a side of this level, it was a big ask for him to come in and perform. I thought he was outstanding.
“He was very comfortable in possession and defended well, bar the first goal. It’s difficult to criticise him as it was a bit of a lucky deflection.
“But I thought he was outstanding for his first game. With a new signing, you would ideally try and ease them in.
“Niko has given a lot since coming in the door. He has had a big schedule for a young lad and has looked a bit jaded after international duty. We wanted to give him a bit of help tonight and Joe looked as if he had been around for a long time.”
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