Steven Gerrard hailed Ryan Kent for silencing his critics with the expertly-taken goal that fired Rangers into the Europa League last 16 on a memorable night in Braga.
The £7million winger’s form has come under close scrutiny as the Ibrox side have toiled domestically but his second-half finish secured a richly-merited success over Portugal’s form team.
And Gerrard offered a message of support for Kent, insisting some of the flak directed at the former Liverpool man has been ‘ludicrous’.
Steven Gerrard hailed Ryan Kent for silencing his critics by scoring the only goal in Braga
‘There have been a lot of opinions on Ryan of late on what type of form he is in,’ said Gerrard. ‘But he delivered a big moment for us and he could have had two. He was disappointed with the big chance he had in the first half.
‘But I am really happy with him and I don’t just judge him on numbers. I judge him on what he is doing for the team — in and out of possession.
‘People don’t give him the credit he deserves, in terms of the amount of running he does for us. But he came big for the team and scored the important goal.
‘Hopefully this will do his confidence the world of good because there will be times when people aren’t happy with him and it’s a little bit up and down. That is part of being a footballer at a top club.
The winger has come under scrutiny for his performances with the Gers' struggled in the SPL
‘But some of the opinions I have been reading of late on Ryan are ludicrous. He’s a top player.’
Ianis Hagi had seen a first-half penalty saved by Braga keeper Matheus, while Florian Kamberi passed up a good chance before the break.
Kent should also have netted in that opening period and said: ‘I missed an easier opportunity in the first half but the goal is just a bonus.
‘The fact we’ve gone through is special for the football club, the fans and for ourselves and we have got something to fight for.
‘The boys know recent form hasn’t been good enough and we expect better and demand more