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Gerrard: NK Osijek’s comments played right into our hands

Rangers v Wigan
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Rangers boss Steven Gerrard believes that NK Osijek pre-match comments about his side had the opposite effect on his players by motivating them to beat their opponents

Heading into Thursday night’s second round qualifier in the Europa League at Ibrox, the encounter became highlighted by comments from both midfielder Robert Mudrazijaboss Zoran Zekic.

Mudrazija had claimed that Osijek were “better, stronger and more skilful” than Rangers with coach Zekic echoing those comments himself.

But the Croatian side were unable to back-up their comments on the pitch with Nikola Katic scoring the decisive goal against his compatriots, through a second-half header, to earn Rangers a 1-1 draw and, crucially, a 2-1 aggregate win to book their place in the third qualifying round against Slovenians Maribor.

“Talking doesn’t win you football matches, it doesn’t get you results. Sometimes it doesn’t help your players, it just motivates the opposition,” said Gerrad, according to Sky Sports.

“We thrive on all that kind of talk. We enjoyed it. My players came out and played like men and we did our talking on the pitch.”

While Rangers had conceded their first goal under Gerrard through a last-minute deflected strike by Osijek captain Borna Barisic, the former Liverpool skipper was still pleased with what he saw from his side and reserved special praise for midfielder Ryan Jack.

“I’m very pleased to get through,” he said.

“We played against a very dangerous opponent but over the two legs we did exactly what we needed to do.

“I thought there were some absolutely stunning performances within the team performance – but as a midfielder, I was jealous of Ryan Jack’s performance tonight. It was stunning.

“I’ve got a good type on my hands there. He’s player who cares, who wants to win and is prepared to go out and do exactly what you’ve asked of him.

“I think he made one minor mistake during 90 minutes in a big football match. This is a kid who missed six months last season. I’m delighted with Ryan’s performance.”

Gerrard will now take charge of his first ever Scottish Premiership game against Aberdeen this Sunday.