ON the biggest night of Steven Gerrard’s managerial career, Rangers recorded the most impressive win of his Ibrox tenure. A place in the Europa League knockout rounds is now firmly in their sights as Gerrard continues to transform Rangers’ fortunes and restore their reputation.

The win over Legia Warsaw that saw Rangers qualify for Group G was dramatic, while the victory against Feyenoord was a statement of intent. This triumph at home to Porto – earned through goals from Alfredo Morelos and Steven Davis – was the highest profile by some way, though.

Gerrard will do his best to ensure his players don’t get carried away by their impressive start to the campaign, but supporters have more belief in this side than any that has been at Ibrox for quite some time. Wins like this only reaffirm that and Rangers – the fourth seeds in the section – could now top it as they look ahead to the trip to Feyenoord and visit of Young Boys with upmost faith in their abilities.

There was an air of confidence, of bullishness, about Gerrard when he conducted his pre-match media duties on Wednesday night. He fancied Rangers’ chances and so did the Ibrox crowd, but both parties needed those trusted with a jersey to play with the same swagger as they had done a fortnight ago.

It says much about the progress that Rangers have made under Gerrard that they could host Porto and not be daunted by the challenge and the win was merited on the night. This side have come a long way in a short space of time but Gerrard and his staff are well aware of how much further they still have to go, both domestically and on the continent.

It was only natural that the Ibrox crowd would arrive here with a spring in their step. The air was cold and crisp but Gerrard needed the atmosphere to be red hot to inspire the Light Blues.

A banner proclaiming ‘We fear no foe’ accompanied the red, white and blue mosaic Tifo as the teams took to the park. Ibrox was nervous yet expectant.

Those jitters seemed to creep into the players in the opening stages and the performance levels didn’t rise as high as the decibels. Rangers wanted a quick start, but passes were misplaced and tackles missed as Porto looked more assured with the ball and without it.

Glen Kamara did brilliantly to hook a header from Pepe off the line after just eight minutes. His intervention was just in time as the midfielder ensured the sting wasn’t taken out of the crowd early on.

Ibrox breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and there was another let off for Rangers when Francisco Soares headed wide of Allan McGregor’s left hand post. The striker rose well above the Gers defence but his effort lacked direction and conviction.

The same could be said of Gerrard’s side for most of the first half. Brandon Barker offered little on the right, while the service to Morelos wasn’t quick or incisive enough and the Colombian soon became frustrated.

There was more coming from Ryan Kent and it was the £7million man that had Rangers’ only real chance of the opening half an hour. The build-up was neat but Kent’s strike rose over the bar as keeper Augstin Marchesin was untested.

The theme of so near yet so far continued until the break. By that stage, Rangers had grown into the encounter but were still left frustrated.

A strong challenge from Jack got the crowd on their feet but the subsequent cross from Kent was behind Morelos. On the whistle, Davis found James Tavernier with a sliderule pass but Barker’s strike from the cutback was high and wild.

Rangers had not been particularly poor, but they were not at their best and the performance in the first half hadn’t matched the occasion. That couldn’t continue, and it didn’t.

Another roar of encouragement greeted Gerrard’s side as they made their way back out after the break but one of celebration didn’t come before the hour mark.

It was Kent that was looking the most likely source of the opening goal for the Gers. His first effort of the half was wide of the far post after he cut in from the right, but his second forced Marchesin into a smart low save after he showed neat footwork to make space for himself at the edge of the area.

There was another warning for Rangers as Porto saw a second effort of the night cleared off the line. A cross from the right fell to Wilson Manafa at the back but Goldson was in the right place at the right time to deny the visitors.

Soon, Ibrox erupted and Morelos’ name was sung by the majority of the 49,000 strong crowd. The striker had his 21st of the season and Rangers had the lead thanks to a superb, clinical strike.

Morelos collected a cross from Jack and from inside the area found the bottom right corner of Marchesin’s net. The left-foot finish was sweet, emphatic, and Gerrard greeted it with a series of fist pumps as Morelos ran to a crowd that adore him and was surrounded by team-mates who were thankful for him once again.

Calm was never restored after that. Four minutes later, the advantage was doubled and the game was won as Davis fired a low shot from the edge of the area that was deflected beyond the despairing Marchesin.

Porto pressed and probed in search of inspiration and hope but the goal never came as their chances quickly faded.

The night was destined to belong to Rangers and to Gerrard. Another one like this and the European dream will be realised at Ibrox.