• Proud of his players after quarter-final defeat
  • A missed opportunity at Ibrox?
  • Why Premiership leaders will refocus on domestic challenges

Philippe Clement has spoken to the media following the Europa League defeat to Benfica. Here is what he had to say.

Do you think you deserved more?

I think it was a close tie. But I am proud of what my players showed, we played a better game than we played in Lisbon. A better game on the ball. But you need to be on your toes to compete with these kind of teams with a much bigger budget than we have. Everybody did that, everybody raised their level towards the Lisbon game and we need to take the moments. We didn’t take enough of our moments and they took their moments. We made a wrong decision making. If Dio just goes with the attacker, nothing happens in that situation but he is still a young player who plays for the first time at this level and he played a really good game. I am proud with what I saw. I saw a team who were brave, who wanted to take the domination of the game because Benfica started with pressing on us like they did in Lisbon. We were much better on the ball in that way. Then it is about taking the important moments. We didn’t do it.

Was your struggle to create chances down to the schedule or the injuries?

For the moment we don’t have the same impact that we have a few weeks or a few months ago with players coming in because the guys coming in, they come out of injury and lack rhythm. It is about hard work now in the next couple of weeks to make them better again. For Todd, if you only have one training after eight weeks out you cannot expect miracles. You expect one moment. We had the moment at the end when the ball was just next to the post. That is the situation for the moment and everyone is working really hard to get a bigger squad fit for the next weeks and months.

Why were you exposed from your corner kicks? 

Because they have a lot of quality, that’s one thing.  And the goal we get against us we make the wrong decision. I don’t think they created a lot of chances out of that. We had also a counter-attack in the first half on set-pieces.

Did team tire a bit in the end with all the injuries?

Of course some players were tired at the end of the game. But on Benfica’s side also, they also made changes. That’s normal at this level and if you play that kind of game at that tempo. It’s normal that you get tired players. That’s why it is important in those moments that we can bring in players who can raise the level again with their freshness. We lacked that a bit at the end of the game and that’s something we need to work on in the next couple of weeks, to get everyone back in the best shape.

Was tonight a missed opportunity to go through? 

It’s a difficult question because if you see where the team was, not five months ago, but two months ago, they could not compete in this way with Benfica. So the team is still growing and if I see the game last week and now, on the ball it’s a big difference. So the team is growing and we need to adapt to the circumstances. If you see the budget of the two clubs you need, as a Scottish club, to be really proud with what the players showed. It was really tight margins and if you look back at last week, if you don’t concede the penalty which was not a penalty, then it could have been extra-time now. But we look at ourselves and what we can do better as a team. The players showed that they can be better on the ball and they defended really hard and solid together. So we are going to continue that story in the next weeks and the next months. That’s the most important thing now. We need to leave this European competition and to be really proud. To be first in your Europa League group and then to be really competitive in two games with a team like Benfica is something that the club can be really proud about.

Is the challenge now to get players refocused on huge prizes still to be won?

It’s zero challenge for me. I don’t have any doubt about that, that it will be a challenge for me or that they will be sitting in the dressing room saying, ‘Oh now we’re out of Europe, the season is finished.’ No, totally not. I know my boys, I know my dressing room. They will recover well tonight, they will take their ice baths, take their food, try to sleep and tomorrow they will come in with a lot of hunger and be ready for Sunday.

Can this still be a memorable season?

I think it’s already been a memorable season. How long ago did Rangers last win the League Cup? We’re hungry for the two other trophies. We’re going to stick together, work really hard to focus on those two goals. I’ve read a lot of times the last couple of weeks that it was maybe better that we’re not in Europe any more. I didn’t agree, I told you, and I still don’t agree. But we’re now focusing on the two other trophies.

What did you think of the reaction from the fans at the end?

That says everything. These fans are used to a lot of things, a lot of quality, a lot of great moments. It’s what I said from the beginning, these fans know football, they know what they want, not only football, but also to see a team that has a heart for Rangers. They saw that in these two games. If you lose, you are disappointed, you are sick of it like I am now. But you’re also proud - and that’s what I feel from the fans. They understand, so it was a really important thing they did towards the players. It shows the togetherness that is really strong for the moment in this club and that’s what we need to keep for the future. This thing can’t get lost like it was in the beginning of the season.