Josh Cohen and Maccabi Haifa put themselves in pole position to advance past Red Star while the Yanks at Rangers still have everything to play for after their draw against PSV.
Rangers 2 – 2 PSV Eindhoven
Malik Tillman and James Sands once again started for Rangers FC in the first leg of their play-off against PSV Eindhoven, however the team still has work to do next week after they allowed a late equalizer against the Dutch side.
Tillman started on the right side of a front-three for Rangers and played 71 minutes before being subbed out. During his time he did force the PSV keeper to make a couple of saves, while completing 12 of his 14 passing attempts.
Sands played the duration in central defense, making a whopping 101 ball contacts, while completing 94% of his 94 passes, hitting six of eight long ball attempts, making a pair of interceptions and winning four of nine duels.
Richard Ledezma was injured for PSV in their previous league game over the weekend, and didn’t make the trip to Glasgow for the game.
PSV opened the scoring just past the 36-minute mark, following a corner from Cody Gakpo, Jordan Teze slid the ball back to Ibrahim Sangaré, who buried his shot from near the penalty spot.
Three minutes later, the hosts pulled even on a fast combo play; Steven Davis picked out James Tavernier on the right edge of the area. The long-time Rangers right back took a couple steps before spotting Antonio-Mirko Colak free in the middle, whose one-timed shot wasn’t pretty, but rolled just inside the far post for 1-1.
In the 67th minute, Tillman made a slow but weaving run up the middle to the edge of the area, however his low shot towards the far post was hit weakly and too centrally, giving the PSV keeper Walter Benitez an easy save.
Tom Lawrence put the hosts ahead three minutes later in rather lucky fashion, striking a low, bouncing free kick from 33 yards directly at Benitez. However, this time the Argentinean keeper made a mess of the grab, letting the ball take a bounce off of his torso before it rolled over the line.
Tillman was pulled moments later as Rangers head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst sought to lock down the win, however PSV would have the final reason to celebrate with 12 minutes left. Gakpo fired in a corner from the right side, and snuck in unmarked, sending his off the underside of the crossbar and over the line to earn the draw.
With away goals no longer a factor in UEFA competitions, both teams are on equal footing when they head to PSV’s Philips Stadion on Wednesday for the second leg.
Maccabi Haifa 3 – 2 Red Star Belgrade
Despite not having his best outing for Maccabi Haifa on Wednesday evening, Josh Cohen still had reason to celebrate after they took a narrow lead over Red Star Belgrade in the first leg of their play-off.
While allowing a pair of goals in the first half, Cohen still made a pair of important saves, and most importantly came away with the win.
The hosts took the lead due to equal contributions of guile from Dolev Haziza and Frantzdy Pierrot in the 18th minute.
Haziza worked his way from the right sideline towards the edge of the six-yard area, evading four defenders along the way. His cross towards the middle took a slight deflection off of Canadian national team keeper Milan Borjan before rolling to the Pierrot’s foot. The Haitian striker made wonderful turn, found space and fired his shot from six yards for the lead.
The Serbians equalized three minutes before the half-hour, with Aleksandar Katai’s shot from outside the area taking a slight deflection off of Aleksandar Pesic, sending Cohen the wrong way on his unsuccessful attempt to make the save.
Then with five minutes left in the half, Cohen was simply beaten by an excellent shot from outside the area by Guelor Kanga, sending the Israelis into the half facing a one-goal deficit.
However, a strong opening to second half saw them grab the advantage. In the 51st minute, Haziza was once again the trigger-an for Pierrot, sending a fine cross towards goal from the left flank, which the striker headed in to pull even.
Then just past the hour, Haziza slid a five-yard pass to Tjaronn Chery in the middle for a low, 20-yard strike to the left side that had Borjan watching helplessly as his team conceded the lead.
In the end, Haifa maintained their advantage of the final 30 minutes, and will be looking to close out the series on Tuesday when they travel to Belgrade.