February 28, 2020

Hagi hails tactical genius of Gerrard after Europa League win

Steven Gerrard, Ianis Hagi, Rangers

Ianis Hagi believes Steven Gerrard should get all the Braga bragging rights after masterminding Rangers’ route to the Europa League last 16.

The Romania ace paid tribute to his manager’s tactics after the Light Blues stunned the high-flying Portuguese side home and away.

Gerrard explained after Wednesday’s 1-0 win at the Estadio Municipal how he instructed his team to show patience while Ruben Amorim’s team – the competition’s top scorers – played the ball about the back before springing into action to smoother their opponents in midfield.

The plan was then for Gers to then whip the ball in behind Braga’s suspect high line and it worked a treat, with Ryan Kent’s winner coming off the back of a Hagi ball over the top.

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“It was a tough away game but tactics-wise I think we played really well,” said on-loan Genk star Hagi. “Everything we worked on in the two days leading up to the game I think we pretty much did everything.

“I can’t say Braga had a clear chance, just one with a header but that was from a corner. “We knew they would have really good ball possession but our tactics were amazing.

“We played a really good game and in the end we deserved to win. “Tactically, defensively, offensively we played really good. What the coaches planned, we executed in the field.”

Hagi was Rangers’ hero at Ibrox last week as he dragged the Glasgow outfit back from the dead with a daring double as Gers came from two down to win the first leg 3-2.

But he became the fourth player in blue this season to miss from the spot when he saw a penalty brilliantly clawed away by Braga keeper Matheus just before half-time.

The 21-year-old did not let that miss distract him and played another key role as he sent Kent racing away for a vital away goal. However, he says he will leave it to Gerrard to decide if he remains on penalty duties after missing Gers’ sixth of the season.

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He said: “These things happen. I’m not the only one who has missed a penalty and I think in the future other players will miss too. “It was actually a really good save. I analysed him and knew that he would always jump left or right so I just tried to kick it in the middle.

“But the keeper had a great reaction so we have to give him credit. In the end I’m just happy that I helped my team by assisting for Ryan Kent to get his goal.

“Do I want to stay on penalties? I think that’s a question you have to ask the coaching staff.

“But the assist was sweeter because of what happened. Not only did I miss the penalty but we had two or three other really good chances in the first half so we needed that goal.

“In the end it’s good that we got the win.”

Gers will discover who they will face in the last 16 when the draw is made in Nyon at noon on Friday – and Hagi reckons Gers’ latest triumph will have the tournament’s remaining sides sitting up and taking notice.

He said: “It’s too early to speak about how far we can go. We just have to wait and see who the next opponent is.

“But for sure for sure we’re not afraid of any other team in this competition.

“There are another two games to play and we just need to make sure we’re really intelligent and play two really great games like we did against Braga. Then we’ll see what happens.

“I think everybody knows the mentality of this club and how huge it is. “For sure they will have a tough time with us.”

Football 365

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