Steven Gerrard insists he is to blame for Rangers’ latest semi-final failure but has warned his players they will be replaced by new signings if they don’t improve the standard of their attacking play in the coming months.
The Ibrox club suffered a fifth consecutive Hampden defeat in domestic semi-finals as Lewis Ferguson’s 79th-minute goal took Aberdeen into the Betfred Cup Final.
It was a bitterly disappointing afternoon for Gerrard and significantly stalls the generally positive momentum he had created at Rangers since becoming manager in June.
“It’s very tough to take,” said Gerrard. “This one will hurt for a while. It’s Aberdeen’s day, we wish them well. They deserve to go through because they created that bit of magic in the business end of the box and punished us on a set piece.
“We got what we deserved. The performance was fine, it was quite good up to a certain point. But there was a serious lack of quality and a serious amount of bad decisions in the final bit of our play today.
“We didn’t deserve to score. I pick the players, I sign the players, I pick the game plan so I’ll take responsibility for this.
“But what I’ll assure everyone is that won’t be our last semi-final. If it means I have to go and buy better quality players for when we get to this stage, that’s what will happen.
“If the players that we’ve got now don’t improve and start showing the quality we need in the final third, my job is to go and find the players who will.
“Otherwise, we are never going to win anything.
“You want someone to have the courage, belief and quality to go and make the opposition pay in the final third.
“We had none of it today for 90 minutes on a glorious pitch within a good performance.
“I don’t think anyone played badly but as a team we had a serious lack of quality. We’ve played two 90 minutes in a row, after Spartak Moscow on Thursday, without creating a clear-cut chance. We’ve got ourselves to blame. But I give the game plans and tactics, so the buck should stop with me. If there are any fingers pointing, point them at me.”
Gerrard, who admitted his team ‘sorely missed’ absent strikers Alfredo Morelos and Kyle Lafferty, was left exasperated by Umar Sadiq’s failure to equalise for Rangers in the closing stages.
The on-loan Roma striker, handed his first starting appearance, was booked for simulation as he tried to win a penalty after knocking the ball beyond Aberdeen ‘keeper Joe Lewis.
“We’re Rangers, we are a big team and we should play with a centre forward,” said Gerrard in explaining his decision to selected Sadiq.
“To be fair to Umar, in the last two or three weeks he had shown signs of improvement. Whether it’s enough, we’ll have to judge that moving forward.
“His performance up until the final bit today was okay. We can’t point fingers and blame Umar. What I would say to him is if you go around the ‘keeper, stand up and put the ball in the net. Don’t dive or you are going to get a yellow card. Could he have carried on and scored? 100 per cent.”