Rangers will have to win in the Netherlands next week if they are to reach the Champions League after drawing 2-2 with PSV at Ibrox in the play-off first leg.
Ibrahim Sangare had given PSV the lead at Ibrox before goals from Antonio Colak and Tom Lawrence had put Rangers in front, but Armando Obispo’s header ensured that the Dutch side would leave with a draw and hopes of finishing the job at Phillips Stadion.
With the prestige of the top competition, and a huge financial reward, at stake for the team that qualifies, the atmosphere at Ibrox was electric before kick-off. Giovanni van Bronckhorst had made four changes to his side in the hope of carving out an advantage on home turf.
There was an early warning of PSV’s intent when a ball in from the right was volleyed over by Luuk de Jong from six yards when the striker should have hit the target but Rangers weren’t shy about getting forward either, taking early opportunities to test the Dutch side’s defence.
The home side had a couple of chances to put in free-kicks from distance to no avail but their first real attempt on goal came after 21 minutes when Steven Davis set Marek Tillman up but his shot from the edge of the box was low and lacking venom.
That attack was the start of a spell of pressure from Rangers and Tillman had another opportunity after linking up with Antonio Colak in the box but wasn’t able to get a shot away. VAR was then called into action when a Goldson header struck Jordan Teze’s arm but no penalty was given.
After 37 minutes, Rangers were behind. PSV had shown their danger with a couple of pacy breaks down the flanks but when the goal came, it was from a set piece. A corner from the left wasn’t cleared properly and Teze touched the ball back to Sangare, whose shot wasn’t cleanly hit but sailed inside the post and into the net with McLaughlin unsighted.
The visitors’ lead didn’t last. Rangers were on the front foot quickly and within three minutes they found their leveller. A slick passing move freed James Tavernier on the right and his low cross was met by Colak, who tucked the ball into the far corner of the net with a smartly struck shot.
The equaliser energised Rangers and they pushed for another with a flurry of half-chances before half time but had to settle for being level at the break.
The opening stages of the second half were scrappy and broken up by fouls, with Armando Obispo becoming the first player booked for a rash challenge on Colak. The Rangers striker shrugged it off and soon after tested Benitez with a powerful shot from a narrow angle.
PSV’s first chance of the second period came when a long ball was nodded on by De Jong and Saibari stabbed the ball wide under close attention from Goldson and Borna Barisic.
De Jong, and then Goldson were booked as the game became increasingly physical and PSV enjoyed a spell that saw Saibari have two shots on goal, the first sailing over from 18 yards but the second needing McLaughlin to be strong to stop.
Tillman had another effort from the edge of the box after a Rangers counter, but it lacked the power to trouble Benitez.
The PSV goalkeeper was equal to that, but his blunder gave Rangers the lead after 69 minutes. Tom Lawrence hit a free kick from distance that bounced in front of Benitez and he made a mess of the save, spilling the ball and watching it squirm over the line.
With Rangers suddenly on top Van Bronckhorst made his first changes, replacing Davis and Tillman with Scott Wright and Glen Kamara and bringing fresh energy to a team already lifted by their goal.
PSV weren’t undone though, and once again they punished Rangers from a corner. Gakpo swung the ball in and Obispo, who was just about to be substituted, rose highest to nod in off the bar.
McLaughlin had to be quick off his line to block from Max after he raced on to a defence-splitting pass as the game entered the last ten minutes, before Tavernier had an opportunity to put in a corner but saw it easily cleared.
Neither side could find a clear cut opportunity as the clock ran down, setting up a tense ‘winner takes all’ clash in Eindhoven next Wednesday.