There was only one discordant note as Rangers secured a 1-1 draw at Porto in the Europa League on Thursday night with a performance that moved Steven Gerrard to sing the praises of his team to the heavens.
The Ibrox manager has called on Uefa to operate from the same hymn sheet when addressing all forms of misconduct after being left in no doubt that the safety of his players was compromised when showered with missiles as they celebrated Alfredo Morelos’s equaliser in the Estadio do Dragao. Conor Goldson and the Colombian were both struck by lighters and coins. Yet, Gerrard also acknowledged that his men must be more mindful of their proximity to opposition supporters when expressing emotions following a Rangers goal.
“There should be punishments and repercussions for it,” he said. “Conor said that he showed the coins and the lighter to the referee but he didn’t want to do anything about it, and that is disappointing. They did the right thing, which is to report it to the referee. That is the protocol. Uefa need to look at it because it is dangerous. The referee has a responsibility to protect the players so I will be very interested to see if that is in the report.
“I used to be a corner kick taker so I’ve had a few coins bounce off me and derogatory comments come my way. It is the game, but I don’t think it is as bad as it used to be but it could certainly be tidied up.
“I saw the players celebrating in the corner by their fans and maybe we over-celebrated in that area a little bit. But you get lost in the emotion, it’s a big game and a huge goal for us. I can forgive the players for that.
“The rules are you’re allowed to celebrate within the lines of the pitch, so the players haven’t done anything wrong, but we maybe have to mention that just to not incite anything or have fingers pointed at us. More from a safety point of view, I should speak to the players and tell them to be careful where they go to celebrate because at the moment, unfortunately, this is not the first time we’ve spoken about missiles coming on to the pitch.”
Not for the first time Gerrard will require to be mindful of the quick turnaround between a continental high – describing the Porto display as “faultess” save for the mistake that led up to a “world-class” strike – and an awkward domestic fixture, with Motherwell hosted tomorrow. It is one of five key fixtures that await Rangers in the next fortnight as they seek – at least – to stay level with Celtic at the top of the Premiership, earn a first domestic final of his 18-month tenure in next Sunday’s Betfred Cup semi-final and put daylight between themselves and Porto in their Europa League section when the two meet against at Ibrox on 7 November.
“It’s a testing schedule,” he said. “But we’ve tried to create, within the group, no excuses. It’s what we sign up for. You don’t get a day off at Rangers, you don’t get breathing space.”
The vibrancy of their midweek display and their sluggishness in the 1-1 draw at Tynecastle last Sunday was acute. Asked how he would avoid any drop in standards against a side that have taken as many points on the road as the Glasgow title rivals, Gerrard added: “I’ll show them the first five minutes at Hearts,” – an opening spell he slammed as a low of his time.