Steven Gerrard hailed Alfredo Morelos after revealing a pre-match pep talk sparked the Rangers striker back into life.
Morelos grabbed his first league goals of 2020 with a double in Rangers’ 3-0 win over St Mirren.
It was a much livelier display from the Colombian against the Buddies than he managed during Thursday’s Europa League defeat to Bayer Leverkusen.
The 23-year-old laboured through the Bay Arena clash and showed little to justify the club’s £20million valuation.
Gerrard admitted after that display that the player’s head had been “turned” by interest from Lille, but he was fulsome in his praise after watching Morelos strike twice having also played a key role in Conor McCarthy’s first-half own goal.
“He certainly deserved the man of the match,” said the Rangers manager. “I thought his focus was really strong.
“He got a good assist and two goals and I thought his all-round play deserved those numbers.
“We spoke to the whole group about Thursday’s performance and how the all-round performance had to be better.
“I did have a private chat with Alfredo about his own performance. He acknowledged the fact that he could have been better.
“But he wasn’t the only one. I think as a group we could have been better on Thursday night.
“There was no finger-pointing individually but I do speak to the players and get a feel for what they are feeling. Alfredo was well aware that he needed to perform a little bit better.
“He certainly showed a great reaction today, though. From the first whistle until the end, it was a really strong Morelos performance.”
New signing Cedric Itten was handed a late debut cameo role while Kemar Roofe will join his new team-mates for full training this week too.
And Gerrard – who insisted there has been no fresh bids from Lille despite weekend reports – expects Morelos to react to the newcomers.
“The competition is hotting up but that’s the way it should be at Rangers,” he said. “No-one should feel comfortable and feel the shirt is theirs. They’ve got to earn it and perform at a level where you make a manager pick you.”
Rangers had to show patience as Jim Goodwin’s Buddies defended for the lives, with former Ibrox back-up keeper Jak Alnwick impressive on his Govan return.
“A lot of teams are going to sit here and set us the challenge to find the breakthrough,” added Gerrard.
“Jim has been going on all week about how well they’ve been defending and how solid and organised they look and he’s come here and set us a challenge today.
“But I’ve got to give the players lots and lots of credit because we stayed on from the first whistle as we chased the breakthrough.”
Saints will likely face another torrid 90 minutes on Wednesday night when they host Celtic.
Goodwin said: “I don’t think it is a result that we should allow to knock our confidence too much, we won’t be judged on these particular games.
“We have to pick the bones out of it tomorrow, look at what we can do better and try and re-energise for another extremely difficult game on Wednesday.”
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