Steven Gerrard says Rangers’ last-gasp win over Legia Warsaw has justified his decision to take on the Ibrox job as he dedicated Europa League qualification to the Gers faithful.
Alfredo Morelos almost blew the roof off the stadium as his stoppage-time winner sealed a 1-0 aggregate victory and sent the supporters wild.
The Gers support have found themselves under close scrutiny after being handed a double UEFA rap for sectarian chanting this week.
The club were ordered to close a section housing 3,000 fans after falling foul of the governing body during their opening qualifier with St Joseph’s and could yet face an even harsher punishment after bigoted songs were aired in Poland last week.
But the empty seats made no difference to the atmosphere as Rangers were roared into the group stages for the second year in succession.
Gerrard said: “You saw the place at the end and there wasn’t a prouder man in the building than me.
“One of the reasons I took the job was the support. From the outside, I could see the pain and disappointment. I wanted to come in and help.
“It’s moments like tonight that make me feel so proud and make it feel worthwhile. I’m glad I signed up to it.
“I wanted nights like this from a personal point of view. But to see my players celebrating with the 47,000 fans at the end, it was an emotional time. I was so proud to be the manager of this club out there.”
Gers will now find themselves in Pot Four for Friday’s noon draw in Monaco and Gerrard already knows who he wants.
The former Liverpool skipper said with a wry grin: “I wouldn’t mind going and parking the bus at Old Trafford!”
Gerrard had predicted the match would go to the wire after being held to a goalless draw in Warsaw last week.
And it proved correct as they were made to wait until the 91st minute to snatch victory, with Jordan Jones delivering a perfect cross for Morelos to nod home.
He said: “Alfredo’s a top player and top players provide big moments and that’s what he’s done for his team.
“I don’t think his performance was outstanding but as a striker sometimes you don’t need to be. You just need to provide that moment that gets your team where they need to go.
“He deserves all the headlines as he works hard every day for those moments.
“I thought the cross was exquisite. Jordan has done that for us before. I asked him to go win a football match for me and Jordan, alongside Alfredo, deserves the headlines as they were two moments of absolute quality.”
Legia are now certain to face a charge of their own after the clash had to be halted when the travelling supporters set off a spectacular pyrotechnic display that shrouded the pitch in smoke.
And boss Aleksandar Vukovic could not hide his disappointment after their late collapse.
“The manner of the defeat hurt,” he said. “We dealt with most of their attacks well but unfortunately we didn’t deal with the one at the end.
“We played well against a team who were at a higher level than us. I cannot say we had any bad luck. The better team won on the night.”
On the flares, he added: “It is something I see every week in Poland so I’m used to it. I’m not someone who is critical of our supporters.”
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