Rangers have fired a warning shot at their Europa League rivals with their impressive point in Villarreal, according to midfielder Scott Arfield.
Steven Gerrard’s men were huge underdogs for their group-stage opener at El Madrigal but refused to buckle in the face of the LaLiga big guns and claimed a much-deserved 2-2 draw.
While others were writing off Rangers’ chances of progressing from a tough section, Ibrox boss Gerrard declared before the match that his team were determined to make the knock-out rounds.
And now Arfield believes Gers have proved they are contenders to escape Group G.
“I think we’ve sent out a message with this result,” said the Canada international.
“No disrespect to the other sides, but I think Villarreal are the strongest team in our group. So to come here and stand up to them, particularly after the first half when we never really got going, is great.
“They scored with a worldie from Carlos Bacca in the first minute and that settled them. They found their rhythm a lot quicker than we did.
“But it’s testament to everybody in our dressing room that we came back. The message was clear at half-time, we had to do what we hadn’t done in the first half and get closer to them and hit them on the break.
“Thankfully that’s what we’ve managed to do, so I think it does send out a message.
“However, it’s only one game and there’s plenty more to go. The competition from this point gets harder, the standard gets higher and you’re going to see the true test of us coming up.”
Bacca’s 44-second opener was a body blow but Rangers did not let their heads drop, even when Arfield’s second-half equaliser was quickly followed by another from Gerard Moreno.
And they got the result they merited when Kyle Lafferty swept home home with quarter of an hour left.
Arfield could have stolen the headlines during four minutes of drama-filled stoppage time when he was played in by Graham Dorrans but could only fire straight at home goalkeeper Andres Fernandez.
“I can’t stop thinking about that chance at the end,” said Arfield. “The pass was that good from Dozzer that he does me as well as the three defenders, so compliments to him.
“You always want to score as many as possible and luckily I was on the scoresheet, but it could have been better and it’s one of those ones that will keep running through my mind.”
Gers were up against a side that finished fifth in the Spanish top flight last season but showed they were a match for Javier Calleja’s men.
And Arfield believes teenager Glenn Middleton deserves a huge pat on the back after the substitute played a key role in Lafferty’s equaliser.
He said: “Glenn scares people. You saw when he came on, he doesn’t think about anything else than taking on his full-back.
“That’s the beauty of him. I’d like to see us keep that naivety and innocence about him. We don’t want him getting sucked into that tippy-tappy football.
“He’s good at what he does, he touches the ball and goes by people like he did last night.
“The gaffer has shown a lot of faith by bringing him into the first team and giving him that contract and it’s time for him to really kick on now, but he’s in a great place.”