Steven Gerrard has jumped to the defence of Alfredo Morelos amid claims the striker could have been sent off during Rangers’ 2-1 win at Dundee United.
The Ibrox boss watched his side overcome another major test of their title credentials at Tannadice, again thanks largely to the efforts of skipper James Tavernier.
But the win was overshadowed by a first-half clash when Morelos appeared to plant a forearm into Tangerines defender Mark Connolly’s face.
Referee Steven McLean decided only to show a yellow card to the Colombian – leaving United boss Micky Mellon raging on the touchline.
But Gerrard insists the referee made the right call as he shot down suggestions an elbow had been used.
Asked if he would talk to the striker about the incident, Gerrard hit back, saying: “Why would I speak to him about that?
“I didn’t see an elbow. If you look at him again, there’s no elbow there. The referee saw it and dealt with it.
“It was a foul and a yellow card and it’s been dealt with.
“But if you look at it again, next time I see you you’ll say it wasn’t an elbow.”
Morelos certainly cut a frustrated figure as he was taken off with 17 minutes remaining.
The 24-year-old has now gone six games without a goal in all competitions and his last league strike was against Hibernian back on September 20.
He failed to take another big chance after being played in by Kemar Roofe but Gerrard has backed last season’s top scorer to rediscover his mojo.
“These things happen,” he said. “He’s not the first centre-forward that this has happened to. They have moments and phases where they are not in top form.
“He is working hard, he’s doing a job for the team. His all-round play is good, he’s just maybe lacking that wee bit of confidence in front of goal.
“That’s for me to deal with and it will turn. I’m sure it will turn. He’s just got to keep doing the right things and it will turn for him.”
Morelos’ form may have dipped but Tavernier continues to rack up ever more impressive numbers.
The skipper swept home a breathtaking 30-yard free-kick for his 17th goal of the season before claiming a 13th assist of the campaign with another set-piece delivery as Connor Goldson nodded Rangers back in front just before half-time after Liam Smith had briefly levelled for United.
Gers have now gone 27 games unbeaten this term and look to be on an unstoppable march towards the title.
But urging caution, Gerrard said: “We are in December. We are in December.
“It’s a fantastic effort from the players across that run, however. I’ve said it many times, it’s about taking each challenge as it comes and this was a real tricky one today.
“You can see the pitch is starting to turn along with the weather. Add that to the fact that United are a competitive team.
“We’ve handled everything that’s been thrown at us today so really proud of the performance.
“We’ve done enough. We created the most chances. We dominated the whole second half. We should have had a penalty. So all in all, we take the points away and deservedly so.
“The leadership (from Tavernier and Goldson) has been superb since the beginning of the run and they have stepped up at big times and big moments.
“Connor scores a similar goal to the one he did at Celtic Park, it is a great delivery from James. The free-kick, it doesn’t matter who you are or who you are playing for, that is a world-class moment to execute it in that style from where it was. It was a superb bit of magic.”
Mellon refused to comment on the Morelos incident after the game but was happy to praise the efforts of his team as they became the first Scottish side in three months to net against the rampant Premiership leaders.
He said: “I wouldn’t want the opposition manager standing here and talking about my players. Everyone will have their opinion at home but the referee makes the decisions.
“What’s important for us is Dundee United and being the best version of ourselves. The movement from Liam for the goal was great and something we’ve worked on.
“As gutted as we are, it’s a step in the right direction for the football club in terms of making it competitive against Rangers.”
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