Rangers have to settle for a draw with PSV Eindhoven after Obispo’s late header |  Champions League

Rangers have to settle for a draw with PSV Eindhoven after Obispo’s late header | Champions League

Rangers have to settle for a draw with PSV Eindhoven after Obispo’s late header |  Champions League

Whether Rangers will make a long-awaited return to the Champions League, or fall into the familiar environment of the Europa League, remains to be seen.

Against PSV Eindhoven, they were lucky, a goalkeeper disaster from Walter Benítez giving them their second goal, although they also showed much of the spirit that took them to last season’s Europa League final.

PSV showed many of the same qualities in an evenly matched match in which the momentum flowed off. In addition to the defensive mistakes, both teams showed attacking quality, and just like this match, next week in Eindhoven will probably be a tough test for the nerves.

Rangers’ absence from the Champions League group stage will last 12 years, when the club was led by the late Walter Smith and Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United were among their opponents. Now Ferguson was in the Ibrox stands. Steven Davis, who started in midfield, and Allan McGregor, the veteran goalkeeper on the bench, then played. Via sojourn in English football as the club reformed and made it back into the divisions, the pair were symbols of Rangers’ attempt to return to the promised land.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s great friend and former Dutch international colleague, Ruud van Nistelrooy, stood in the way. The former forward was unbeaten in his sixth game as senior coach and returned to the ground where he shot PSV’s consolation penalty in a famous 4-1 Rangers win in this competition in 1999.

Van Bronckhorst’s reluctance to link new signing Antonio Colak to Alfredo Morelos persisted, the Croatia international favored the Colombian forward on fitness grounds. It was Luuk de Jong, the experienced striker of PSV, who got the first chance and made a mess of his finish from the pearl of a pass by Ismael Saibari. The visitors had started off with football in possession, using a surface made faster by the summer rain in Glasgow.

Antonio Colak after scoring the first half equalizer for Rangers
Antonio Colak justified his selection with the first half equalizer for Rangers. Photo: Steve Welsh/PA

Davis’ influence began to grow midway through the first half. It was from his pass that Malik Tillman got Rangers first shot. Ryan Kent also stepped forward, with Tillman and Colak locating each other’s wavelength. A VAR penalty went to Rangers when the ball appeared to hit the hand of PSV defender Jordan Teze.

PSV kept threatening on the counterattack, with danger man Cody Gakpo hitting the out-ball on the left, preventing James Tavernier from bringing out his trademark, although it came from a set point that PSV scored the goal in the 38th minute. Connor Goldson failed to make a corner and then blocked the view of his goalkeeper, Jon McLaughlin, when Ibrahim Sangaré grazed.

The response from Rangers was quick and sharp. They were level again within three minutes, Davis sent Tavernier away after the overlap and Colak justified his selection with an expert guided finish for his fourth goal in four games.

The break did not interrupt the attacking intent of either team as both tried to get their hands on the draw for next Wednesday’s return, although the Rangers approach became more direct due to necessity. PSV dominated possession, but still looked vulnerable at the back as Rangers picked up steam.

From another outburst from Tavernier, Colak Benítez forced the first save of the second half, before De Jong Saibari’s film sent past Goldson, but the Moroccan shot wide. Saibari then forced a save from McLaughlin, while PSV continued to assert themselves.

And yet it was Rangers who struck. Saibari’s foul on Tillman gave Tom Lawrence a free kick. His 30m attempt bounced and slid off the surface, but was still more than salvageable for Benítez, who spilled the ball and let him bounce across the line to cheers from the home fans and disbelief of the Dutch contingent.

The spirit of PSV remained admirably unperturbed and from another corner, a poorly marked Armando Obispo headed the deserved equalizer on the balance sheet. To end their exile, Rangers will have to revive the essence of last season.

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