Rangers boss Philippe Clement reckons his side weren't far away from pulling off a miracle result against Benfica. 

It finished 2-2 at Estadio da Luz as Clement was given his first taste of Europa League knockout stage football in Rangers colours. Tom Lawrence provided the Scottish Premiership leaders with the dream start by powering home a header after seven minutes before Angel Di Maria levelled proceedings from the penalty spot. 

Rangers were ahead again in remarkable fashion with Dujon Sterling poking the ball behind the home goalkeeper just as the half-time break beckoned. Both teams would spur opportunities in a frantic second half. But it was an avoidable own goal from Light Blues defender Connor Goldson that ensured the spoils were shared.

And Clement insisted at full-time that he's proud of Rangers performance and the mentality shown during the last 16 first let tie but conceded that losing two unfortunate goals has left him unhappy at leaving Portugal with only a draw. 

"No, not happy," the Belgian told TNT Sports. "I think we were very close to writing history here. This team never lost a Europa League game at home and we were close this evening so you're not happy about that but I'm proud about my team. They showed a team mentality and showed the right things, getting good goals.

"We had unlucky goals against and we discussed the penalty. John didn't see the ball dropping. You can't jump with your arms behind your back. That's a really unlucky situation then the own goal also. So it's a pity we lost goals like this otherwise it would have been amazing. It was a really strong team performance when they showed good character and also were strong on the ball."

Saturday's league defeat to Motherwell aside, Rangers have improved drastically under Clement's stewardship. And he thinks the onus has to go onto how well the players have responded to his methods. 

"No, it's about them (the players)," he replied when asked if the positive progress was down to him. 

"They made really good steps. Also given the injures we have at the moment. It is more difficult to make the right changes to give some freshness to the team but the guys who came in who are coming back from injury or are really young like Cole McKinnon are not experienced at this level so these things also make a difference at the end of the game. 

"But everyone showed their character and gave their maximum to get a good result and this is a good result to get a draw in an away game in Benfica and creating more chances than the two goals."

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Clement acknowledges the scale of the challenge facing Rangers next week despite the tie remaining level and was quick to point out the gulf in finances between the two teams.

"Yes. It's a big challenge," he admitted. "You see the quality they have. I read in the newspaper their transfer value is €120m more than ours. So we know it's a big task but I can't ask more than what my players gave me today and I want to see the same again next Thursday, but first Sunday and we have a very important game at the weekend."