Rangers manager Steven Gerrard hails Northern Ireland ace Kyle Lafferty

Rangers forward Kyle Lafferty duels for the ball with Villarreal defender Ramiro Funes Mori
Rangers forward Kyle Lafferty duels for the ball with Villarreal defender Ramiro Funes Mori

Steven Gerrard believes Kyle Lafferty belongs on the same stage as Villarreal after the Northern Ireland striker scored to help Rangers to an impressive 2-2 draw in Spain.

The Ibrox side suffered a nightmare start to their Europa League campaign as Carlos Bacca put the hosts ahead inside 44 seconds at El Madrigal.

Scott Arfield and Lafferty scored the goals for Gerrard’s side while Gerard Moreno got the Spanish side’s second.

Lafferty’s goal was also his first strike in European competitions after 17 previously unsuccessful attempts.

But Gerrard never doubted the Northern Ireland striker could produce a big performance as he deputised for the suspended Alfredo Morelos.

“I know you say it’s the first goal for him at this level but he’s scored many international goals which is obviously a very high level,” said the Ibrox boss.

“It’s not a surprise to me, it’s the reason I played him, it’s the reason I bought him and wanted him back here because I know he likes the big stage, I know he’s capable of scoring big goals.

“It doesn’t matter who he’s playing against, the standard of the team, he believes in himself, he backs himself.”

And Gerrard praised his side after the encounter.

“I’m very proud of my team, especially in the second half, which I felt was a very strong performance.

“We got off to the worst possible start. but it was a crazy end to the game - we could have won it through Scott Arfield and yet at the same time we could have lost it. But I think that would have been really harsh - we deserved a point tonight.”