The Italians had Catenaccio, Rangers have Waltenaccio. Walter Smith’s infamous defensive system of 5-4-1, frustrated a PSV side who dominated the match, but failed to break through the defensive line in front of the Rangers goal. It resembled the Thin Red Line from the Crimean War when the 93rd Highlanders withstood the onslaught of a Russian Cavalry charge, but this time it was a Thin Blue Line and the onslaught came from PSV Eindhoven. The outcome was the same, both opponents were fought off. It wasn’t pretty but it was effective and Walter Smith’s game plan worked once more.
A goal would have been the icing on the cake, a goal which Rangers could defend at Ibrox in the second leg next week. But now Walter Smith’s men must now attack, if they lose a goal, then they must score two as the away goal rule would benefit PSV. A score draw is no good for the reigning SPL Champions, a win is a must or secure a 0-0 after Extra Time and try to win the tie on Penalties. But that would not be in the interests of Rangers, especially with the League Cup Final against rivals Celtic just a few days later.
Walter Smith made three changes from the side that beat St.Mirren at the weekend. Allan McGregor, David Healy and John Fleck made way for Neil Alexander, Kyle Lafferty and Kyle Hutton.
The first half saw PSV dominate the early stages of the tie, but despite having control of the ball the Dutch side could not capitalise and failed to break through Rangers’ rear guard. It took 16 minutes for PSV to have a real chance on Alexander’s goal, a superb pass on the edge of the Rangers box nearly found striker Marcus Berg, but the on loan Hamburg striker was beaten to the ball by Alexander.
Toivonen and Berg were probing the Rangers back line trying to find a way through, but PSV were more effective down the wings causing Foster and Whittaker problems.
Dszudzsak had a chance after 22 minutes but his shot was well over the bar, when the pass would have been a better decision. And Manolev on PSV’s right, caused problems for Whittaker who was playing out of position, due to the injury of Sasa Papac. Manolev and Lens linked up well for PSV down the right, causing problems for Whittaker and Lafferty throughout.
Lens hit an effort high and wide ten minutes before half time after beating Whittaker and Hutton. But PSV should have taken the lead two minutes later. A Dszudzsak free kick took a touch off Lens and gifted Marcelo with a glorious chance to open the scoring, but he headed over from just a few yards out with Berg lurking behind him unmarked and waiting to strike for an easy finish.
It was a major let off for Rangers who delivered very little as an attacking force in the first half, and both teams went in at half time on equal terms.
Rangers started brightly in the Second Half, on loan utility man Richard Foster had a fine run down the wing before cutting across the park. He tried to pick out Diouf in the box but Engelaar knocked it out for a corner.
And the resulting corner nearly teed up another loan boy Kyle Bartley to score his second goal for Rangers, but Diouf’s cross was just behind the Arsenal youngster.
But with Rangers looking to become more of an attacking threat, they almost conceded. The ever dangerous Toivonen slotted a pass behind David Weir gifting Berg a one on one with Alexander, but he shot wide of the Rangers Reserve keeper post.
The PSV fans were claiming for a penalty minutes later when Manolev fell to the ground in the box, under a Bartley challenge however the referee waved play on.
Rangers were coming more out of the Waltenaccio tactic, attempting a few forays forward. Steven Whittaker got down the left and sent a cross to Diouf, but the Senegal striker saw the cross-cut out by Bouma who headed the ball behind for a corner.
Rangers had their best chance of the night when Diouf delivered a cross for Bartley to head towards goal, but Isaksson tipped the ball around the post denying an almost certain goal. The Ibrox side had to settle for another corner.
And Rangers had Bartley to thank for denying PSV another goalscoring opportunity. Toivonen sent a pass into the path of Berg, but Bartley’s pace proved invaluable as he denied the former Villa striker a chance, with Alexander gathering up the loose ball.
Rangers replaced Diouf with Weiss and PSV brought on from Koevermans for Berg, and the PSV change nearly paid dividends, but Marcelo once again blew a guilt edged chanceas. He was found unmarked at the back post, but his header was once again poor and off target.
The second leg will be a different story for Rangers as they will have to go on the attack as well as prevent PSV from scoring, and getting that valuable away goal.
Rangers manager Walter Smith said, “We are very pleased with the result. We expected the type of game we got. We knew we would have to defend very well and we managed to do so. We are very pleased with the outcome. We had one or two bits of luck and there were one or two poor finishes but overall we were excellent in terms of restricting PSV’s opportunities. We’ve got to be happy with the outcome tonight.”
And Smith stated that Rangers will face a tough test at Ibrox next week, “In the second leg, a lot depends on circumstances of the match. We will have to do more attacking. For them the away goal is a big thing. We will approach the game with the same care and levels of concentration as we did this one. PSV will be as dangerous, if not more so, at Ibrox.”
PSV team: Isaksson, Marcelo, Pieters, Bouma, Engelaar, Hutchinson, Dzsudzsak, Manolev, Berg, Toivonen, Lens.
Subs: Cassio, Rodriguez, Vukovic, Wuytens, Koevermans, Bakkal, Zeefuik.
Rangers team: [5-4-1] Alexander; Weir, Foster, Whittaker, Bougherra, Bartley; Edu, Davis, Lafferty, Hutton; Diouf.
Subs: McGregor, Wylde, Cole, Weiss, Hemmings, Fleck, Heal
Stadium: Phillips Stadion
Competition: UEFA Europa League Last 16
Referee: Martin Hansson
Kick Off: 18:00
Possession: PSV [57%] Rangers [43%]
Shots on Target: PSV  Rangers 
Shots off Target: PSV  Rangers 
Corners: PSV  Rangers 
Fouls: PSV  Rangers 
Bookings: PSV  Rangers