When James Tavernier poked home at the back post in Eindhoven last night with 64 minutes on the clock, Rangers grabbed hold of momentum at Philips Stadion for the first time that night.

They had opportunities before the interval, or better put, potential moments with space behind a PSV defence rushing to aid their attack, all of which were unfulfilled. The final pass lacked, the last action missed and the ruthless edge required to play at Europe’s elite demanded by Michael Beale the day before posted missing. This was by Beale’s own admission a step too far and too early for this group.

17 minutes after Tavernier’s dose of hope, Connor Goldson was inadvertently passing PSV’s fifth goal of the night beyond Jack Butland and into his own net. PSV were in no mood to sit on a comfortable lead and retain possession, the hosts were primed to take out a year of frustration suffered since defeat at this stage in 2022. You sensed they weren’t content with victory, instead chasing the infliction a humbling.

“We played against an excellent team over two legs. There were times over the two goals when we did well and scored three goals, but we were bitterly disappointed with the way that we defended in key moments. There was intrigue in the air after we made it 2-1 but we conceded straight away,” reflected Michael Beale in his post-match press conference.

“I think they were ruthless. As a team, we could’ve shown more quality. The level was too much for us which was clear.”

On the basis of xG, PSV created more than Rangers but not five goals worth of opportunities. In fact, the underlying numbers ended 2.13 to 1.36. Those stats, of course, don’t tell the whole story or capture the impending sense of doom each late attack from the hosts carried in spades. After their third PSV were playing with supreme confidence, clicking into gears their opponents did not possess. The match’s trendline does show just how much this tie opened up after the hosts’ second goal, as well as depicting the incision with which Rangers were picked off in those final stages.

Spectators in the packed-out Philips Stadion stayed to celebrate a return to Europe’s top table with Europa League football now confirmed for Rangers. While underdogs in the tie overall, It was the emphatic nature of the ending, the threat of this scoreline racing beyond five on the night, that will hurt. Beale spoke at his pre-match press conference about the possibility this game provided and now even more pressure, if that’s possible building up to an Old Firm, is pilled onto Sunday. This team, like any new team but especially one at Rangers, have to step up and deliver a big result.

Did Beale get it wrong, or did the attacking moves at 2-0 down and another set-piece concession prove too costly?

His side started in a 4-4-2 off the ball which sought to approach the game as Rangers played in parts of last week’s second half. Getting Todd Cantwell close to Cyriel Dessers, Rabbi Matondo wide on the left and Jose Cifuentes supporting James Tavernier. Even if they carried a transitional threat before the arrival of Sam Lammers and Danilo it wasn’t until the move to a five across midfield, offering the possibility of a free man outside to build play, that any actual chance arrived. For periods of the first half, the away side’s shape looked able to contend but when PSV built pressure, the ball would not stick for Rangers up top. And ultimately when the home side worked their free man on the inside channel, they were also able to win the penalty box.

Beale conceded that his side fell too deep before the break, and left themselves with no chance after conceding a third goal just after their own strike. It was their inability to deal with an attack they’d largely won the battle against with a very similar approach last week that decided this game. PSV’s rotations and movement down both sides proved slicker than the first leg and alongside their danger once again from set-pieces, Ismael Saibari and Luke de Jong proved too good to handle.

“They’re a very good team and we found it very hard to deal with De Jong and their No.10, They won the duels with our centre-backs which made the game difficult,” Beale added when diagnosing his team’s problems on the night.

“The story of the two legs is that we couldn’t handle Saibari and De Jong as a team. We had to go for it in the second half and we had opportunities to score.”

The noises coming out of PSV’s press conference on Tuesday focused solely on what they could do better. “I have no doubt we’ll have more possession” claimed manager Peter Bosz, “It is about what we do with the ball when we have it.” As demonstrated in the home side’s pass network, they constantly stretched the game to either side and when joy did arrive down the sides, Saibari’s runs off the back of midfield and ahead of the defence proved deadly.

Even a warning shot moments before Saibari’s opener didn’t stop the young attacker from sticking his forehead on a cut-back after the home side reacted quickest at a throw-in. It wasn’t only that PSV managed to, too frequently, slot passes down the side of the defence and cut the ball back to the edge of the box but that Rangers did not defend those situations with strength. They didn’t win these duels and therefore lost the penalty box. As highlighted after the first leg in Glasgow, these moments were largely unfulfilled for Bosz’s men in the first leg but with a week to work, the ruthlessness from such situations was evident.

With Beale having spoken of a desire to level up from set-pieces, De Jong’s threat from this area again proved overpowering. His prowess from these zones is no secret, the home crowd chant ‘Luuk’ when a dead ball situation is won and 66 minutes in, the No.9 attacked a free-kick at the near post to seal this tie. As shown in the below freezeframe, De Jong was able to take advantage of the opposition’s marking scheme, getting a free run at the front post to head home.

After attacking substitutions had been made, that concession was all the more costly. Suddenly, with Rangers set up to really attack the game PSV’s red arrows flew forward with concerning regularity and precision.

Of course, it’s possible to concede heavily at this level but the manner of those last few goals doesn’t help any momentum that had been built up in recent days since the first leg and win at Ross County. Especially considering the chance value PSV created (2.13) in comparison to the goals scored. A move in the transfer window and win on Sunday will change that mood but anything other than a win against Celtic would heap on all the more pressure. Naturally, after a summer of change, supporters are impatient to see proof that this team can achieve what every at Ibrox must, being the city’s dominant side.

As in any football game, it’s often the manner of a result that matters just as much as the number of goals that go in. And although PSV approached this tie as favourites, the sight of Goldson passing into his net and Veerman adding a fourth goal as Bosz’s side waltzed through an understaffed defence gave the end result an emphatic feeling. In some ways, Sunday proves the perfect game to approach, only a big win can help get over a heavy defeat. 

It, like last year’s group stage, was a reminder of the ruthless level this competition boasts.