STEVEN GERRARD was proud of his Rangers players despite missing out on progression to the Europa League last 32 as they squandered a two-goal advantage against Benfica.

The Gers were on course to clinch a place in the knockout rounds as Scott Arfield and Kemar Roofe fired them into a deserved lead at Ibrox.

But there was more late heartache for Gerrard and his players as Benfica netted twice in the closing stages to earn a point that keeps them level with Rangers at the top of Group D.

The news that Standard Liege had completed their own comeback to beat Lech Poznan – a result that would have seen Rangers qualify if they had held on – added to the sense of an opportunity missed on another remarkable night.

Gerrard said: “I don’t think disappointed is the right word. I was obviously frustrated to take two goal lead and not go on to win the game.

“But I think you have to take a lot of things into consideration. We are playing against top footballers, we are playing against a top team, we are playing against a team that shouldn’t be here. They should be in the Champions League.

“They spent an awful lot of money in the summer and they will be disappointed they are in the Europa League. So you have got to give credit where it’s due. They wear you down and they find areas of your team where you get a bit fatigued or a bit tired so where you don’t defend properly and they make you pay.

“We would have took two points before a ball was kicked against this team and I am really proud of the players after what they have given over the two games.

“Yes, we will pick the bones out of it and we’ll analyse where we haven’t gone right towards the end of both games. But I can’t ask for any more from my players over both games.”

Despite the final result, there were a number of real positives for Gerrard to take once again at Ibrox as his side performed admirably on the European stage.

The goal from Roofe was certainly one of them as the striker produced another accomplished showing and netted a stunning long-range effort.

Gerrard said: “Both goals were fantastic, but some obviously look better than others on the eye. To collect the ball, shift it onto his right side and then find the top corner.

“He is in terrific form, he is getting close to his best. He is fit now, he has got no pains or niggles. He is n a fantastic place. Long may that continue.”

Rangers still have their destiny very much in their own hands as they prepare for the visit of Standard Liege to Ibrox next Thursday night.

The game could have been wrapped up had Roofe been awarded a penalty when his cross struck the arm of defender Jan Vertonghen.

And that would frustrate Gerrard as his side ultimately missed out on what would have been a deserved Europa League victory.

He said: “It’s a penalty. It’s not annoying, it needs looking at. I can see it and I’m further away than the official. It’s a clear penalty for everyone to see.

“We have hit the crossbar as well. We were never in total control of this game at 2-0. I don’t think at the time it was a 2-0 game. We always knew it was going to be difficult.

“I don’t think Benfica were ever in the game. It was a bit of a strange match to analyse from the side.

“But I think it was a fair result. Once the emotion settles on both sides, I think it was a far result.”