Steven Gerrard admitted to “slight disappointment” at the outcome of his first competitive fixture in charge of Rangers as they secured a 2-0 first-leg lead in their Europa League first qualifying round tie against Shkupi.
Gerrard’s side looked set to be taking only a slender 1-0 advantage to next Tuesday’s second leg in Skopje, courtesy of Jamie Murphy’s first-half strike, until captain James Tavernier converted a stoppage-time penalty.
It left the Rangers manager warning his players they still face a stern test in the Macedonian capital next week if they are to book a place in the next round.
“I was satisfied with the result and satisfied with parts of the performance,” said Gerrard. “But I don’t think it’s any better than satisfactory. There’s still a lot of work to do and we’re still in a tie. So we’ll have to make sure we perform when we go out there.
“In terms of our first competitive game, to keep a clean sheet and control the game – I felt we should have won it more comfortably if we were a bit sharper in front of goal – we’ll take 2-0. But I’m slightly disappointed we didn’t win it more comfortably.
“Mentality and attitude are going to be key in the second leg. The players need to realise this tie is not over. We are going to have to go there and perform very well. I’m sure Shkupi still fancy their chances.
“We have put ourselves in this position where there is still work to be done. There were chances out there to put this tie to bed and we maybe should have had another penalty for a foul on Ovie Ejaria.
“I thought there was a bit of anxiety and tension in our first-half performance. As soon as we relaxed and started making passes, we looked like a team. You could feel the relief in the stadium and it was nice to get the second goal.”
Shkupi head coach Zekirija Ramadan was clearly unhappy at the award of the controversial penalty converted by Tavernier, the visitors convinced Amir Bilali got a touch on the ball as he challenged Murphy.
“I don’t want to comment a lot on the penalty but I didn’t see it coming,” said Ramadan. “The referee had already made his mind up. But there are another 90 minutes left in the tie. I’m happy with how my team played. We will have to adjust a few things for the second leg but we look forward to it.”