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Rangers 0-1 Benfica: Philippe Clement praises 'brave' side but falter in key moments

Rangers manager Philippe Clement was full of praise for his "brave" players after Europa League last-16 defeat by Benfica, but he also knew where they came up short.

"You need to take the moments and we didn't take ours enough," the Belgian said after the 1-0 loss in the second leg at Ibrox, which was decided by Rafa Silva's breakaway goal.

Rangers did brilliantly to take a 2-2 draw back home with them a week ago, and the sense was the Ibrox factor gave them the edge over a fragile, if skilful, Benfica.

Better teams than Roger Schmidt's have folded amid the din in Govan. However, despite Rangers hogging 59% of possession, they never really put Benfica under severe pressure.

They ended the night with an expected goals rating of just 0.57, compared to Benfica's 1.57. There was a gap in quality in the final third, which eventually tolled.

'Rangers didn't do enough'

There may be a parallel universe where Clement had more of his forward players available for this tie, where Rangers were able to pose a greater threat.

Whether it was Dujon Sterling's athleticism, the directness of Oscar Cortes, or the dribbling and goalscoring ability of Abdallah Sima, they were missing something.

Cyriel Dessers, who admittedly has 16 goals this season, only had four touches in the first half and, though he improved after the break before being replaced on 76 minutes, never looked a likely matchwinner.

As Kilmarnock boss Derek McInnes put it on TNT Sports, Benfica simply had better forwards than Rangers.

Silva confirmed it when he hared away and drilled the ball beyond Jack Butland, as the home side were eventually punished for their risky tactic of piling forward players at corners.

"Quite simply Rangers didn't do enough," former striker Steven Thompson said on BBC Scotland's Sportsound.

"Benfica limited Rangers, they had some very solid performances defensively and they played a counter-attacking game.

"They probably should have made more of the opportunities they had. Rangers, for all the control and possession they had, didn't make the most of it.

"They did not work the keeper anywhere near enough. Rangers are better than what they showed but I thought Benfica performed well."

Benfica's Rafa Silva scores the opening goal during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16, second leg match at the Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow.
Rafa Silva's second-half strike for Benfica sent them through to the quarter-finals

Players will be 'hungry' for league

The generous applause from the Ibrox faithful for their dejected players at full-time said two things.

One, they probably knew Rangers could not have done much more given the gap in quality, their heavy schedule, and injuries.

The second is they have learned to love their team again and know the tantalising prospect of a first domestic treble since 2003 is still there.

With the League Cup in the trophy cabinet and a semi-final of the Scottish Cup to come next month, the focus immediately switches to Dundee in the Premiership on Sunday, with Clement's men two points clear of Celtic.

Legs looked heavy by the end and heads were bowed, but the Rangers boss expects his team to finish strongly.

"We will continue that story in the next weeks and months," he said. "We need to leave this European competition behind us and we need to be really proud.

"I don't have any doubt that there will be one player in the dressing room saying we are out of Europe that's our season over - no totally not.

"I know my boys, I know my dressing room. They will recover well this evening and tomorrow they will come in with a lot of hunger to be ready for Sunday."