PROUD Steven Gerrard lauded his players’ efforts to ensure they bring an advantage back to Glasgow next week following a 4-3 win over Royal Antwerp tonight.
The Light Blues gaffer was thrilled with the way in which his men twice levelled from being behind and then grabbed the lead with a second Borna Barisic penalty of the game in the final minute of normal time.
Speaking at the post-match press conference, manager Gerrard explained: "I am very pleased with the outcome of the game in-terms of the result. I think the boys showed amazing character to keep going and keep fighting for the right result.
"It was a crazy match and I am sure the neutrals enjoyed it, but as a coach or a manager, I will be looking into it as we had too many issues defensively.
"The goals we conceded are poor from our point of view, so there is certainly work to do and a lot of improvement to do, especially at this level where you get punished a lot more.
"But, in-terms of what the players are giving me, I asked them for more at half-time as I felt we we only committed to the game, I wouldn't say half-heartedly, but we weren't ourselves.
"We were a little bit slow and a little bit lethargic at times, and we have conceded goals that we don't normally concede.
"So I asked the players for more both in and out of possession - I told them to play with more belief and more personality when we were regaining the ball as we were getting some fantastic opportunities, but we weren't really taking them in the first half.
"But in the second half, we played with much more character and belief so the outcome of the game is fantastic for us, but there is still a lot of improving to do."
One dampener on the evening was injuries to both captain James Tavernier and attacker Kemar Roofe.
The manager updated: "I am concerned for both sitting here right now - more concerned for Kemar just because he feels it is the same as a previous injury which he missed two to three weeks from.
"So we think he's got a calf problem in-terms of the muscle, but we will have a look at it in the coming days with a scan.
"In-terms of James, we will have to wait and see. He has obviously gone in for the block tackle and ha felt some pain in the knee area.
"So we will see how he settles down and we will get him scanned as well and go from there.
"I am feeling really good in-terms of the result, but I feel for both players as they are very important for the group."
On a night of so many standouts, the manager was asked about the contribution of Ryan Kent from the bench in which he netted an equaliser for 3-3.
Gerrard said: "Ryan deserved a breather tonight. I have been playing him an awful lot and he has been fantastic and hasn't missed a training session.
"He reported a bit of a knee issue five or six days ago and he played at the weekend and had a little bit of discomfort at the weekend.
"So I wanted to look after him and protect him tonight, but the game needed Ryan Kent and I had to use him.
"In an ideal situation, I didn't want to use him tonight, but he has come on and scored a fantastic goal and could have scored another one.
"He looked a threat throughout and that is the quality he has got. He scores big goals for this team, but he could have got a brace tonight and I am sure he will be thinking when we get back on the bus and the plane tomorrow, 'I should have scored two.'
"But I am really pleased with his contribution and his impact from the bench for sure."
The boss was also asked to highlight the performance of Alfredo Morelos, adding: "I thought he did everything but score.
"He was involved with in the majority of our good stuff and it was a really strong performance and I am really pleased - especially with him missing a few games domestically to come in at this level and put in that type of performance I am really pleased and proud of what he gave tonight.
"And him not scoring will only make him more determined to get a goal at the weekend or in the second leg.
"So Alfredo should be really pleased with himself and it is certainly something for him to build on moving forward as it is not easy missing games and then getting right back up to speed straight away.
"But he was really good tonight, and the reason we have scored four goals tonight, Alfredo has played a massive part in that."
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