Steven Gerrard admits Rangers face a more difficult path to the Europa League knock-out rounds after seeing his side frustrated by Spartak Moscow.
The Ibrox outfit set a new club record of 11 games undefeated in a single European campaign with the 0-0 draw against the Russians.
The result leaves them level on five points with Villarreal after the Spaniards thrashed Rapid Vienna.
Gers, however, stay top of Group G based on their head-to-head record with the Yellow Submarine following last month’s 2-2 draw at El Madrigal.
But Gerrard fears his team’s failure to capitalise on their home advantage against Spartak could cost them further down the line.
He said: “I would certainly have signed up for being top of the group at this stage. I would have signed up for that on June 15 on day one. We have got five points alongside Villarreal and three games to go so there are a lot of hard work and big challenges ahead.
“The job has become a little bit more difficult because we never got the breakthrough tonight, I understand that. But there is still loads of football to play and big games for the players to play in and me to coach in. I am really excited going forward.”
Gers dominated for large spells against the crisis-hit visitors, who had fitness coach Raul Riancho in temporary command after axing boss Massimo Carrera earlier this week.
But Spartak were well enough organised to limit Rangers to a series of half-chances and Gerrard admitted his side did not do enough to open up the Muscovites.
“It was just that little bit of magic or last bit of quality we needed,” he said. “We did enough to marginally win the game maybe. We played very well for 45 minutes. We lost control for 10 or 15 minutes in the second half.
“We kept winning the ball back and instead of making four or five passes, we gave it back to them and lost our shape and our way.
“Then we came strong into the game again for the final part. We always felt our fitness might be the difference in the final stages.
“We asked them at half-time if they could create that moment which gives us the breakthrough. We created the moment but just couldn’t finish it off.”
But Gerrard did take time to hail his record-breakers after watching them surpass Smith’s 1992/93 heroes to set a new benchmark for games unbeaten in Europe.
He said: “I feel very proud of the team in general and to find out yesterday that if we avoided defeat we created a bit of history, that is always a bonus as far as I am concerned.
“It is a nice thing for people to talk about but our focus now shifts swiftly to Aberdeen at the weekend, which is a huge game.
“The players certainly deserve praise having come from where they were 12 months ago, losing against a team from Luxembourg. We have come on leaps and bounds.”