Long after the 2am commotion outside PSV Eindhoven’s hotel, fireworks were still going off in Glasgow.
A game full of compelling drama and sharp shifts in momentum lit up Ibrox before the conclusion left Rangers feeling somewhat stiff.
Hope remains. Surely. But next week’s trip to the Netherlands must deliver the spectacular.
PSV Eindhoven will be full of confidence after holding Rangers to a draw at Ibrox Stadium
Ruud van Nistelrooy (left) will feel brighter on the second stage in the Netherlands than his compatriot Giovanni van Bronckhorst
At full-time, two Dutchmen shared a handshake on the touchline before considering their respective returns to their homeland. There can be no doubt that Ruud van Nistelrooy left Ibrox feeling brighter about this prospect than Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
Van Nistelrooy’s side showed no effects of the attempt – apparently by some Rangers ultras – to disrupt their sleep with pyrotechnics.
PSV went in front, lost their way for a spell and fell behind to an epic goalkeeping howl. Still, they summoned the energy required to claim an equalizer and tip the balance of this Champions League play-off in their favour.
And then to Eindhoven. Philips Stadium is no Ibrox, but Van Nistelrooy has been optimistic about the lift this 30,000-capacity venue can give his players. He points to the extra-time win over Monaco in the previous round as a prime example, claiming the passion from the stands was instrumental in pushing PSV over the line in a tie they looked set to lose with 70 minutes on the clock.
It was certainly a huge victory, but even if the head coach and some key players have since changed, their past record should not inspire despair on Rangers’ part.
Van Nistelrooy’s side showed no effects of late-night fireworks outside their Glasgow hotel
Last season, PSV lost at home to Monaco, drew with Real Sociedad and defeated Sturm Graz as they missed out on Europa League progression. A drop in the Conference League saw victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv and a draw against Copenhagen before Leicester City won in the Netherlands.
The counter-argument, of course, comes from Rangers’ own results away from Edmiston Drive. Away nights in Europe have been mixed. If the incredible 4-2 thrashing of Borussia Dortmund at their home ground was the undisputed highlight under Van Bronckhorst, the 2-0 loss to Union Saint-Gilloise earlier this month was easily the nadir. A lackluster performance, lacking virtually every necessary ingredient, was only rectified by a comeback of historic proportions in the second leg last week.
A draw at Lyon joins one-goal defeats at Braga, Belgrade and Leipzig to complete the list. Belgrade was the only second leg among the latter trio. And Rangers took a 3-0 advantage to Serbia.
They will cross the North Sea with parity. And you have to say it was a fair result on the balance of play. Two extremely well-matched teams saw the success of their tactical plans ebb and flow during Tuesday’s 90 minutes.
Van Bronckhorst’s big call had been the inclusion of Steven Davis. The 37-year-old midfielder was here when Rangers last played in the Champions League itself. And here when PSV visited the Europa League later in the 2010/11 season.
He hadn’t started a European game since Van Bronckhorst’s bow against Sparta Prague last November, but here he was – alongside John Lundstram in a game of acute importance.
There was further fascination in one of his direct opponents. Rangers had been interested in signing Joey Veerman before his £5million move from Heerenveen to PSV last season. It was the one who got away versus the one who still has it.
Veerman was first into the game, roaming the pitch in search of areas where damage could be inflicted on the Rangers defence.
They were soon located. After Luuk de Jong had missed an early chance for the visitors, Jon McLaughlin had to scramble off his line to smother an enticing through ball from Veerman.
A brilliant pass swept wide right for Ismael Saibari to put Rangers on the back foot again. The winger should have done better with the opportunity it presented.
Van Bronckhorst’s side will need fireworks on the pitch if they are to beat PSV in the Netherlands
By the time of Ibrahim Sangare’s opener, the first of two cheap concessions on a night of financial high stakes, Davis had begun to radiate influence. His fine-tuned footballing brain was crucial for the Ibrox side to shift the balance of the game back in their favour. To lie flat at half-time was the least they deserved.
Midway through the opening half, the Northern Ireland captain found his range with a lovely first-time knock in for Malik Tillman to tap home. Then Tavernier was sent running away with another perfect piece of placement.
It was just the warm-up acts. Many exquisite elements set up Colak’s 40th-minute equalizer – James Tavernier’s low cross, the Croat’s pristine finish – but none sparkled as much as the instant pass Davis angled into the captain’s path. Measured in millimetres, it was like applying a scalpel to PSV’s back four. Completely clinical.
Davis almost recovered from a foul early in the second period, taking an extra touch in his own half as De Jong and Veerman both pressed hard.
When Davis then returned the ball with a limp pass, it was a sign of both his fatigue and the general slump Van Bronckhorst’s men had suffered. PSV started to turn the screw. They cut off routes for both Ryan Kent and Tavernier and stifled the hosts’ width.
The blunder by Walter Benitez that gave Rangers an advantage was the signal for Davis to make way for Glen Kamara. However, healthy legs weren’t enough to see it through. Now more fireworks must be called in Eindhoven.