'Pre-match boasting boosted us'
Steven Gerrard says NK Osijek played into Rangers’ hands with their pre-match comments.
The Croatians’ midfielder Robert Mudrazija claimed his side were “better, stronger and more skilful” than Rangers while boss Zoran Zekic also had plenty to say ahead of Thursday’s Europa League showdown at Ibrox.
But Nikola Katic shot down his compatriots with a second-half header as Rangers claimed a 1-1 draw and they now progress to a third qualifying round clash with Slovenians Maribor following a 2-1 aggregate success.
Gerrard said: “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.
“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.”
Katic headed home eight minutes into the second period after Osijek keeper Marko Malenica flapped at a Ryan Kent corner.
Visiting captain Borna Barisic became the first player to net against Gerrard’s Rangers with his last-minute deflected strike.
But the Ibrox boss was delighted with the way his side controlled the tie – and picked out midfield anchor man Ryan Jack for special praise.
“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 absolute 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.”