Rangers manager Steven Gerrard labelled his goalkeeper Allan McGregor as ‘world class’ after the Ibrox side held Villarreal to a goalless draw which leaves their Europa League fate in their own hands.
McGregor made a string of fine saves as Rangers repelled their La Liga visitors despite playing for the whole of the second half with 10 men after Daniel Candeias was sent off for two bookable offences before the break.
Rangers will reach the last 32 of the competition with a victory over Rapid Vienna in Austria on 13 December. All four teams in the group still have a chance of qualification on the final matchday after Rapid won 2-1 at Spartak Moscow.
“It was a heroic night from our team,” said Gerrard. “I’m very satisfied in the circumstances. From where we were 12 months ago, to have the opportunity to win our last game to reach the last 32 is brilliant. I can’t wait for it. It will be a fantastic occasion for us.
“Allan McGregor was world class tonight. Just one word really - wow. His form has been incredible since day one. He’s been big for us on two occasions tonight with two world class saves.
“As a team, we were excellent defensively. To a man, the amount of effort they had to put in, the amount of dirty work they had to do - we started that in pre-season and we are reaping the benefits of it.
“This feels like a win for us, after going down to 10 men. There are still 90 minutes left in the group and we have given ourselves an incredible opportunity. That’s all the matters right now.
“I’ll have to have another look at the sending-off, it was at the other side of the pitch. We will certainly analyse the incident. Daniel feels hard done by. It might be a case of mistaken identity. We’ve already had one of those scenarios this season so we won’t go into that.
“It is what it is. We got on with it and didn’t feel sorry for ourselves. We dug in, rolled our sleeves up and got a point.”
Gerrard, meanwhile, denied reports Ovie Ejaria had been left out of his starting line-up last night because he had reported late for training earlier this week. The on-loan Liverpool midfielder remained an unused substitute.
“I wouldn’t drop a player because he was late,” said Gerrard. “Ovie was late, he apologised and that was the end of the matter. He was left out for tactical reasons, not disciplinary.”