Steven Gerrard talks up Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos’ character

Steven Gerrard insists he never lost faith in Hampden fall guy Alfredo Morelos and now believes he is in the running for the Europa League’s player of the tournament.

The Colombian took the brunt of the blame for the defeat in Sunday’s Betfred Cup final after passing up a string of golden chances against Celtic, including a penalty.

But Rangers’ top-scorer shrugged off the nightmare display to fire the goal against Young Boys that propelled his side into the last 32.

Borna Barisic’s late own goal denied the Light Blues top spot in Group G and meant they could come up against one of the sides knocked out of the Champions League when the tournament resumes in February.

But Gerrard – whose side now go into Monday’s draw for the knockout stage – was delighted to see his talisman bury those Hampden ghosts and leap to the top of the Europa League goalscoring charts with his sixth group-stage strike.

He said: “I’m not surprised. People asked me about Alfredo yesterday, how he would be affected. 

“Alfredo is Alfredo. He’s a born goalscorer. He’s a human being, some days he won’t be able to be the hero.

“But he’s got to be up there as player of the tournament so far. He’s scored big goals against top opposition.

“I had no doubt he was going to bounce back. That’s what I see in him.

“If he gets praise, he’s right back on to perform. If he gets criticism, he tends to put it behind him and do his best for the team.”

Gerrard urged his side to blast away the mood of despair hanging over Ibrox following Sunday’s devastating Old Firm defeat.

They took on that challenge as they bossed the Swiss outfit for 45 minutes.

But as the nerves took hold Young Boys were allowed back into the game and Barisic’s 89th-minute blunder gave the visitors hope.

The tension increased when Ryan Jack was sent off for a second yellow card in stoppage time and he will now miss the first leg of their next tie.

But Gerrard said: “It’s a fantastic feeling, especially after the last few days.

“It’s been tough to pick ourselves up, the players and the staff, for this game. The boys deserve credit for getting it done.

“It was a very good first half, we looked dangerous, created the best chances. 

“Maybe if people would have been more bold and brave, we could have scored more.

“Young Boys turned the heat up on us in the second half, piled a lot of bodies forward and went direct.
“I can’t criticise them boys (the nerves got to them). There’s not a high level of European experience in the group. 

“But on the back of a cup final where we put everything into that game and had two days to recover, no-one should understate what they’ve done.

“No-one gave us a chance. I sat in the canteen with the players and squad when the draw was made.

“Porto came out. A Champions League team. They’ll beat Rangers. Feyenoord came out, people said what a group this is. No chance for Rangers. 

“Young Boys, maybe. But I knew how good they were. That was a tough group. For the players to get out in any shape or form is a magnificent experience. 

“It’s going to be very nice to see Rangers in the draw, among some elite teams around Europe.

“It was an aim and target when I came through the door, get respect back in European competitions. Fans live for this. Getting through gives the club a bit of kudos, for sure.”

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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