Armando Obispo spared Walter Benitez’s blushes as PSV Eindhoven rescued a 2-2 draw against Rangers in the Champions League play-off first leg on Tuesday. PSV goalkeeper Benitez looked to have gifted Rangers the advantage when he allowed Tom Lawrence’s free-kick to squirm through his hands in the second half at Ibrox.
Benitez’s howler put Rangers 2-1 ahead after Antonio Colak had cancelled out Ibrahim Sangare’s opener for PSV. But Obispo bailed out his teammate with a priceless late leveller that leaves the tie on a knife-edge heading into next week’s second leg in Eindhoven.
Although PSV will be favourites on home turf, Rangers should still fancy their chances after staging a rousing comeback from 2-0 down to defeat Union Saint-Gilloise 3-0 in the third qualifying round.
Following on from that dramatic comeback, this was another tense European night for Rangers in their bid to return to the Champions League group stage.
Rangers last played in that round of the competition in 2010-11 before financial problems saw them drop into Scottish football’s bottom tier, from where they eventually returned to the top-flight.
They were knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers by Malmo last season, then enjoyed a memorable run to the Europa League final, only to lose to Eintracht Frankfurt in the final. In a nod to Rangers’ European heritage, Ibrox legend John Greig was watching from the stands alongside former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson. But Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s team initially struggled to rise to the occasion on a rainy night in Glasgow.
Netherlands striker Luuk de Jong was inches away from giving PSV an early lead when he fired over from close-range.
Unable to shake off their lethargy, Rangers paid the price for some woeful defending in the 37th minute. James Tavernier and Connor Goldson failed to clear a PSV corner, allowing Sangare to scoop his shot past Rangers keeper Jon McLaughlin from six yards.
Sangare’s goal served as a much-needed wake-up call for Rangers, who responded with an incisive raid to equalise just three minutes later. Lawrence and Steven Davis ignited the move with one-touch passes to Tavernier on the right flank.
Croatia striker Colak had scored in his previous three Rangers appearances and the close-season signing was on target again as he met Tavernier’s cross with a clinical finish into the far corner. Finally showing the same energy levels as their raucous fans, Rangers nearly took the lead just before half-time when Tavernier’s header forced a save from Benitez.
Van Bronckhorst was up against his former Netherlands teammate Ruud van Nistelrooy, the former Manchester United striker in his first managerial role with PSV this season. Van Nistelrooy’s men remained a threat and Ismael Saibari poked narrowly wide after Rangers made a hash of dealing with De Jong’s header.
Benitez made a complete mess of handling Lawrence’s 70th minute free-kick, which bounced out of his grasp and trickled over the line despite his desperate attempt to claw it back. But Obispo silenced Ibrox in the 78th minute as he rose above Goldson to meet a corner with a towering header that flashed past McLaughlin.
FC Copenhagen held off a fightback from visiting Trabzonspor to win their first leg 2-1. Viktor Claesson gave the home team a first half lead. Lukas Lerager added a second three minutes after half time, smashing the ball in from close range after a corner.
The Turkish champions responded by penning the Danes back, but struggled to break through. Their only goal was a 25-yard shot from Tasos Bakasetas that took a deflection off centre back David Khocholava with 11 minutes left.
PSV Eindhoven’s Armando Obispo (left) and Rangers’ Antonio Colak vie for the ball during the Champions League play-off match at the Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow, Scotland. (Reuters)