Maurice Edu (right) leaps with Wilfred Bouma.

Second-choice goalkeeper Neil Alexander shut out PSV Eindhoven to hand Rangers a fighting chance of progressing to the last eight of the Europa League.

The Scottish champions sprang a surprise by naming Alexander in goal, with first-choice stopper Allan McGregor on the bench, and boss Walter Smith no doubt mindful of the Co-operative Insurance Cup final looming this month.

And the move paid off as Rangers claimed a goalless draw that will give them hope of finishing the job in front of their own fans when the Dutch travel to Ibrox for next week’s second leg.

Marcus Berg could have grabbed the opener when he tried to run onto a slick pass from Ola Toivonen but Alexander raced off his line to make a brave block before Berg could connect and slot home.

PSV then passed up a great chance to take the lead when Balazs Dzsudzsak’s free-kick was flicked on by Jeremain Lens for Marcelo who somehow managed to nod wide of target when he looked certain to leave the net bulging.

Rangers looked more lively after the restart but PSV still looked dangerous and had the visitors defence under pressure when Toivonen’s pass was collected by Berg only for the forward to drag his shot agonisingly wide of the upright from close range.

Kyle Bartley, Rangers’ on-loan Arsenal defender, almost claimed a crucial away goal when he threw himself in front of El-Hadji Diouf’s corner and connected with a firm header that was touched wide by goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson.

The best late chance fell to Marcelo, who was left holding his head in his hands after nodding narrowly past the post when he should have at least found the target.

Despite failing to score a precious away goal, boss Walter Smith declared himself “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,” he said.

“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.”

But he warned that Rangers face another difficult night in Glasgow in next week’s second leg.

He said: “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.”