STEVEN GERRARD reckons Europa League hero Ryan Kent silenced his ‘ludicrous’ critics as he fired Rangers into the last 16 of the competition with victory over Braga.

The winger netted the only goal of the game in Portugal as Gerrard’s side recorded a famous away-win and completed their remarkable recovery job following the dramatic comeback at Ibrox last week.

Kent spurned a glorious chance in the first half and could have scored just minutes before he burst away and finished with real composure to clinch the win.

The £7million man has been the subject of fierce debate amongst pundits and punters in recent times but Gerrard never doubted he would rise to the occasion on the continent.

He said: "Ryan is a player that we need that level of contribution from.

"There have been a lot of opinions on Ryan of late on what type of form he is in. But he delivered a big moment for us and he could have had two.

"He was disappointed with the big chance he had in the first half. But I am really happy with him and I don't just judge him on numbers.

"I judge him on what he is doing for the team - in and out of possession.

"People don't give him the credit he deserves in terms of the amount of running he does for us. But he came big for the team and scored the important goal.

"Hopefully this will do his confidence the world of good because there will be times when people aren't happy with him and it's a little bit up and down. That is part of being a footballer at a top club.

"But some of the opinions I have been reading of late on Ryan are ludicrous. He's a top player.”

Victory in Braga was another huge achievement for Rangers under Gerrard’s guidance as their impressive run on the European stage continued.

The Gers have lost just three times in the Europa League since Gerrard was appointed as boss and a last 16 tie now awaits after a stunning 4-2 aggregate triumph.

Gerrard said: “Tonight is about enjoying the win against Braga. We will really look forward to the draw on Friday and be proud whoever we come up against.

“For me, the more important thing now is that we need to back up this performance and go to Hearts and qualify in another competition. That’s the priority for me right now.”