RANGERS got the result that they wanted in Belgium. But they couldn’t hold on for the one that they needed at Ibrox.

This was a point that took Rangers a small step closer to their target. If Steven Gerrard’s side do go on and secure a place in the Europa League knockout rounds, they will certainly have done it in an unorthodox fashion.

The matches with Benfica will be recalled for a mixture of reasons. Like the 3-3 draw in Lisbon earlier this month, this was certainly an entertaining encounter, but it will go down as an opportunity missed for Rangers.

Goals from Scott Arfield and Kemar Roofe should have been enough to qualify for the last 32 – partly thanks to Standard Liege’s victory over Lech Poznan - but once again the lead was wasted and points were needlessly and carelessly dropped.

That will undoubtedly frustrate, and no doubt anger, Gerrard and his side. But their destiny remains very much in their hands ahead of the visit of Liege next week.

It said much about just how confident and composed they are at present that they could rightly fancy their chances against the Portuguese giants. Had their game management been better, they would have beaten Benfica at the second time of asking.

It had taken Gerrard’s side just seven minutes to break the deadlock. Any one of Roofe, James Tavernier or Arfield could have provided the finishing touch, but it was the midfielder that took the acclaim.

The cross from Borna Barisic was typically pinpoint and Roofe rose well to divert a header towards goal from six yards. Keeper Helton Leite made a stunning save but was left helpless as Tavernier nodded the rebound off the bar.

Thankfully for Rangers, Arfield was in the right place at the right time. His low finish was clinical and Gerrard’s side had the dream start to the night.

Benfica were fluent and assured in possession thereafter but Allan McGregor, making his 82nd European appearance to equal the record held by Barry Ferguson, was rarely stressed.

The work ethic from Rangers would have delighted Gerrard at that stage, as would the shape and discipline of his side. The front three of Roofe, Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos interchanged positions seamlessly, while Steven Davis and Glen Kamara were accomplished and comfortable in midfield alongside the energetic Arfield.

On occasions such as this, Rangers are more than capable of holding their own against outfits with far greater resources at their disposal. The absence of a raucous Ibrox crowd unfortunately meant this wasn’t quite the special night that it would otherwise have been.

The results and performances in the Europa League are perhaps sum up best just how much progress Rangers have made under Gerrard and that fact stands despite lapses like the ones that would follow.

With 45 minutes remaining, it was progression that was in their sights as they looked to see out the game here and had a glance towards the other match in Group D.

As impressive as Rangers were, they certainly couldn’t rest on their laurels and Benfica continued to press and probe. They did so without success, though, with a Haris Seferović flick on and Luca Waldschmidt effort at the near post as close as they would come in the opening exchanges of the second half.

Another goal would have sealed the win for Rangers and they should have had the chance to get it from the penalty spot. A cross from Roofe from the right struck Jan Vertonghen and the appeals were rightly strong from Rangers, but referee Radu Petrescu was having none of it as the former Spurs defender did his best to convince those around him of his innocence.

Just a couple of minutes later, Roofe wasn’t to be denied again. The build-up was sleek and imaginative from Rangers as Kamara’s backheel set Barisic free and Roofe had the goal in his sights.

The finish was sublime as Leite was left with no chance. The keeper could only flail at the ball was rifled into the net from 20 yards to give Rangers the breathing space they required and deserved.

When Gonçalo Ramos netted with 12 minutes remaining, there were flashbacks of Lisbon for Rangers. Just when they needed to regroup and gather themselves, Benfica completed the comeback thanks to a lovely finish from Pizzi as he beat McGregor from the edge of the area.

It looked like Rangers had run their race and the efforts and exertions of the first 70 minutes had taken a toll. Despite having options on his bench, Gerrard had stuck with the side that started and the tired legs were struggling to contain Benfica as the clock ticked on.

News that Standard Liege had completed their own comeback in Belgium only added to the sense of missed opportunity for Rangers and they will have to wait to confirm their progress from Group D.

This wasn’t the pivotal night that Gerrard had wanted but it should arrive sooner rather than later as their remarkable Europa League journey gets set to continue.