STEVEN GERRARD was delighted with Rangers’ best 45 minutes of the season so far as they saw off Maribor at Ibrox.

The Light Blues took a significant step towards the Europa League play-off round with an impressive 3-1 win thanks to goals from Alfredo Morelos, James Tavernier and Lassana Coulibaly.

Morelos gave the Gers a dream start as he converted after just six minutes but Mitja Viler rifled home from distance as the visitors notched a crucial away goal before half-time.

Tavernier converted from the spot minutes after the break and Coulibaly headed home what could prove to be a decisive third in the closing stages.

Rangers will now head to Slovenia on Thursday aiming to set up a meeting with Ufa or Progres Niederkorn and move to within two matches of the group phase.

Gerrard said: “It's always nice to get a bigger advantage in Europe. It's an important goal for us but we certainly won't be getting carried away by the score line.

“I thought the players were terrific tonight, especially second half. The second-half performance was really, really strong.

“We played with aggression and organisation. I thought we looked like a proper team in the second half.

“We started the game pretty well and deserved to go in front.

“But then something didn't feel right from about 15-20 minutes until half-time. We went a bit individual in our shape. People were jumping out of slots to go press on their own, people doing individual stuff within the plan and it didn't look right for 20 minutes.

“But we corrected it at half time and I thought we were sensational from then on and thoroughly deserved to come away with a 3-1 lead rather than 2-1.

“I think the second 45 is the best we've seen from Rangers so far. It's very close to how we want it to look. The challenge for us is whether we can do it over 90 minutes because if we do, we'll be a very good team.”

Rangers could have had an easier night if they had doubled their advantage before Maribor scored but were left frustrated as a Morelos strike was ruled offside following a pass from Daniel Candeias.

The Colombian was controversially sent off during the Premiership draw with Aberdeen on Sunday but produced a tireless performance as he put the Pittodrie disappointment behind him in style.

Gerrard said: “To be honest, I thought he was brilliant in the 11 or 12 minutes he was on at the weekend. I felt there was a big performance coming from him then and unfortunately that was taken away from him.

“I wasn’t surprised tonight because he is looking really sharp and lean. He is a handful and his movement is good. He is up there on his own at times and putting in a real shift.

“You can look at that both ways. Alfredo is a little bit eager as all goal scorers are and maybe Daniel could have carried it a bit more. They are best mates so they can take the blame together.”

The goals from Morelos and Tavernier were enough to earn Rangers a deserved win on the night but it was the third from Coulibaly that could prove crucial come the final reckoning in the tie.

And Gerrard was delighted with another eye-catching showing from the Malian midfielder as he netted his first goal for the Gers with a deft header four minutes from time.

He said: “He’s a machine and is exactly what this football club needed in terms of an enforcer who enjoys biting into tackles and pressing and doing the ugly side of the game. He loves it and we love it too and he’s going to get better and better.”