Believe – Rangers 2 – 2 PSV

Image for Believe – Rangers 2 – 2 PSV

By Our Special Correspondent

It was just over a year to the day that Rangers recorded a stunning away win in Holland to advance to the group stages of the Champions League for the first time in a decade, as they welcomed the same opponents to Ibrox to undergo an equally tough task to advance to the top table of European football again. A much-changed Rangers team, saw only Tavernier, Goldson and Barisic survive the Rangers starting XI that defeated PSV last time out but, despite wholesale changes at the club, including the manager of course, Rangers once again started the tie, as they had a year ago, as underdogs. Indeed, there had been an air of worry and even negativity going into this one within the Gers support, as Michael Beale’s new look Rangers team failed to set pulses racing in the opening games of the season. All that being said, Ibrox was packed come kick off and the home crowd, as they tend to do on these big European nights soon found their voice. 


It was a slightly unexpected team selection from Michael Beale. I say ‘slightly’ as most Bluenoses agreed with 10 of the managers first XI picks, with only the inclusion of Sima, over £6m signing Danilo raising a few eyebrows. Whilst I can understand the surprise (I too had Danilo in the team) it’s fair to say that Sima’s pace caused Servette serious problems away from home in the last round, particularly second half, albeit he has a way to go in terms of final ball. Despite this game being at Ibrox, the lineup and formation very much had an ‘away leg’ feel to it and after Dessers battered into Dest in the opening seconds, followed by an unlucky break of the ball thwarting Cantwell, just as blue jerseys flooded into the opposition box, it was clear to see Michale Beale’s intentions.  


Rangers started the game brightly with a flurry of assaults into the PSV final third in the opening minutes. The Manager had obviously decided to keep things compact but, Rangers looked dangerous on the break as Sima and Cantwell supported a physical looking Dessers, something the PSV centre backs did not appear to fancy one bit in those opening moments, the latter, along with Cantwell taking turns at firing up the punters in the stands. Whilst this system was probably sensible, given the light blues defensive frailties of late, the biggest problem with such a formation is that you can take it a bit too far and surrender the ball too much and against a team of PSV’s quality they were allowed to grow into the game quite comfortably. That said, it was a fairly edgy first half, on and off the field with little goalmouth action or any real fluidity to get the home or away fans excited about. Rangers narrow formation and failure to make the ball stick up top made for a scrappy affair and although Goldson and Souttar cruised through the opening 45 minutes you always felt PSV looked dangerous, albeit a little vulnerable at the back as they pushed further and further forward. 


On 45 minutes Rangers came to life as Cantwell broke on the right. His telling cross was missed by everyone, much to the homecrowd’s frustration. Just as you thought the chance was gone, the ball broke on the corner of the box and after some fantastic battling by Raskin and Dessers, after initially feeling the wrath of the home crowd for failing to get on the end of Cantwell’s cross, Sima thundered the ball into the top corner. It was an incredible finish from a guy who had looked a little awkward (at best) with the ball at his feet whenever he got himself into decent positions during a tough first half for him and Rangers. It mattered not though; The Teds were ahead and Ibrox was absolutely bouncing as the half time whistle sounded.


Into the second half and the game noticeably stretched, with Rangers again coming out the traps strongly and unlucky not to go 2-0 ahead after Tavernier popped up in the opposition 6 yard box, as he so often does, to pull off a fantastic point blank save from the away ‘keeper, after a lovely 1-2 with Cifuentes. As it was the home side were to curse that missed chance as PSV again dominated the ball, resulting in the equaliser on the 60th minute. On first viewing it looked like a mix-up in the Rangers defence but after seeing it back, it’s a classy move and fantastic dummy by Pepi which left the influential Sangare in acres of space to sweep home to score, just as he did in this fixture a year ago. It was a blow to the home side after what had been a battling performance up to that point but, no one of a light blue persuasion was about to throw the towel in that easily. We were still in this tie and even before Rangers kicked off for the restart, the stadium had rose as one to drive the team forward.  


Drive them forward it did and after an inspired double substitution from the manager, replacing a tiring Ryan Jack and Abdula Sima, with (the excellent) John Lundstram and Rabbi Matondo, to inject some much-needed pace and urgency into the attack, Rangers took the lead again. It was a classic counter-attacking goal which saw a lovely piece of skill from Cantwell, to release Dessers, who played an inch perfect cross-field pass, in behind the PSV defence for a grateful Matondo, who didn’t even need to break stride, such was the quality of the pass, to slot home. This goal epitomised everything that was good with Dessers performance tonight. He has faced some fierce (and largely unfair criticism) from some fans but, tonight proved that he can mix it  physically at the top level and he can play a bit too. He was a real handful, and you could see both centre-backs were extremely uncomfortable. Michael Beale agreed post-match: 


I think tonight for my new group of players it was a really important night. There was moments in the game where we did really well, the crowd played a big part in that too. I thought Cyril Dessers showed tonight why we brought him to the club. He definitely won the tussle with the two centre backs and I’m delighted with him. 


Unfortunately for Michael Beale and Rangers, Cyril Dessers wasn’t the only handful of a forward on display at Ibrox tonight. No sooner had the crowd got their breaths back from a frenzied celebration PSV had equalised. Luuk de Jong is a player opposition fans love to hate but, I have to grudgingly admit the guy impresses me every time I see him. Yes, he has got a slice of fortune after the ball comes off the back of his shoulder, from a corner leaving Jack Butland helpless but, I always maintain a good striker, who is willing to put their heads into areas that others won’t, will always get that slice of luck at some point over a season. It was harsh on John Souttar, who had marshalled him well throughout the 90 minutes but, was just found wanting by a couple of inches for de Jong to equalise and the manager was left to lament a goal conceded from a set-play with his team in the driving seat, something you just cannot do at this level.  


We are super disappointed to concede from a set-play, but we never had the game fully under control. At this level and this quality of team it’s always difficult but with 10 or 12 minutes to go, and even after that we’ve had a huge chance to win the game so it’s disappointing. That said we need to get rid of the frustration as it won’t help us and it’s all to play for next week, it’s a Cup Final. 


Rangers now head into a tricky away tie at Dingwall this Saturday where nothing less than three points will do. Leaving the stadium tonight there was a definite feeling of positivity for the first time since pre-game of the opening day at Kilmarnock and it’s imperative that the team build on that before heading to Eindhoven, with a belief that we can do it again. Make no mistake, this is a massive ten days for Michael Beale and his Rangers team and whilst there is still plenty of criticism being dished out this evening, I felt a noticeable shift in mood tonight in the stands. All I ever ask as a Rangers fan, is that every single player empties the tank and gives their all for the shirt and it’s fair to say they did that tonight. The crowd stayed with them (right to the end I may add for all you Subway Loyal spotters) and even though PSV will remain favourites to go through, there is a belief in the Rangers support that this can be done for the second year running, a view that was few and far between prior to kick off.

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