Rangers news: Steven Gerrard hammers defenders for Spartak horror show
The Light Blues took the lead three times in the Russian capital, but a woeful second-half display handed them their first Europa League defeat of the season.
Rangers were on cloud nine when first-half strikes from Glenn Middleton, Daniel Candeias and an own-goal from Roman Eremenko gave them a 3-2 advantage.
But shocking defensive lapses, especially after the break, allowed Spartak to seize control for their first home win of the season in Europe as they blew Group G wide open.
Villarreal and Rapid Vienna drew 0-0 last night and now only two points separate all four group rivals, with the Spaniards set to visit Ibrox next month before Rangers conclude their group campaign in Austria.
However, Gerrard refused to spare his ropey rearguard and knows more lamentable defending in their next two group games will cost them any shot at the last 32.
He said: “I’m very disappointed with the result. You saw two sides of our performance tonight. We attacked very well and were dangerous and countered bravely. We got our rewards and had control at half-time.
“However, football is about levels and if you don’t do the basics well enough and defend properly, then
high-level teams will normally punish you and that was the case here.
“People who have had a lot of praise and who did really well to get us to this stage just didn’t do the basics well enough.
“Normally, to come here and score three goals you get a result, but I’m bitterly disappointed with how we defended.”
Gerrard decided against bolstering his midfield at half-time and it was a decision that came back to haunt him as they were undone by two goals in two minutes.
Rangers were over-run middle to front at the cost of their 11-match run without defeat at this level since the former England skipper took over in the summer.
He added: “If the problem was tactical, I would have looked to have changed personnel or formation. The goals we conceded were not due to tactics, but basic errors of defending.
“Of course you can make subsitutions, but these players are human. At times they might make mistakes, but you trust them in the second half to defend better.
“Our message at the interval was to defend better and we could win, with the worst case scenario we come away with something from the match. We had a terrible five minutes and paid the price.
“However, the group is still wide open. It will go to the wire, which is what we predicted at the beginning.
“Our next game at home to Villarreal becomes bigger and more exciting, but we were under no illusions before the game.
“Tonight’s result makes the challenge a bit more difficult.”
Gerrard bit his tongue when asked about a goal shortly before half-time, scored by Alfredo Morelos, that was wrongly ruled out for offside.
It would have given the Gers a 4-2 advantage few would have denied them on the back of some slick counter-attacking, but their defensive collapse proved so costly.
Gerrard added: “We should have scored four goals, but that’s another story. It was a big decision and it’s difficult as a manager to answer and not say the wrong thing and get into big trouble.
“We lost because of ourselves, defensively, but on another night we could’ve come away with a fourth goal.”