Glasgow Rangers beat Royal Antwerp 5-2 (9-5 on aggregate) at Ibrox to book their place in the Europa League last 16 for the second season in a row.
Even with a strong team, Steven Gerrard’s side didn’t have it all their own way, as Antwerp pushed them to their very limit on Thursday.
Goals from Nathan Patterson and Ryan Kent appeared to have restored order after Alfredo Morelos’ opener was cancelled out by Antwerp’s Lior Refaelov in the first half.
But Didier Lamkel Ze pulled a goal back for the Belgians to cause a brief moment of panic, before Borna Barisic’s penalty strengthened their lead, leaving Cedric Itten to wrap up proceedings shortly before the final whistle blew in stoppage time.
Whilst Morelos will receive most of the plaudits for arguably his best performance of the season with the Colombian striker playing a starring role in the famous victory, it was perhaps the performance of his teammate Kent that stood out the most on the night.
As per SofaScore, Kent earned a high match rating of 8.6 for his efforts, that being the second-highest out of almost every player on the pitch and bettered by none other than Morelos himself.
Back on home soil, Gerrard’s side were looking to make a real statement, helped by a virtuoso performance from the 24-year-old as the visitors were run ragged.
Antwerp were punished for some sloppy passing as Kent set up Morelos to put Rangers in front after nine minutes, then just 40 minutes later the English winger gave the Gers a two-goal lead after combining with the Colombian to score his 10th goal of the season.
Kent, who reportedly earns £18,000-per-week at Ibrox, took four shots in total, including two on target, which was the most of any player for either side, and at least two more than Morelos, while he also recorded a superb 24 out of 28 passes, earning an impressive 86% pass accuracy.
As a result of Kent’s constant pressure, Antwerp were rarely able to trouble Rangers, with their first goal only coming after a mix-up between Connor Goldson and Allan McGregor.
The former Liverpool man currently averages 20.6 passes per game this season thus far, which suggests that he was performing a level above his best at Ibrox on Thursday night.
But it wasn’t just his attacking output that caught the eye, either, as he also diligently carried out his defensive duties to deny their opponents several chances on the night. He won four out of his seven duels overall (57%), while he also made one tackle and one interception, the latter of which is more than his season’s average of 0.6 per game.
While Morelos may have terrorised the Antwerp defence on the night, it was Kent’s overall contributions that stood out for Gerrard.