Rangers vs Ajax. UEFA Champions League Group A.
Match report as Rangers record the worst campaign in Champions League history with a 3-1 defeat to Ajax; Steven Berghuis opens the scoring early on; Mohammed Kudus adds a second before the break; James Tavernier scores from the penalty spot before Francisco Conceicao nets late on
Wednesday 2 November 2022 06:28, UK
Rangers recorded the worst campaign in Champions League history as they lost 3-1 to Ajax in their final group match.
Rangers needed five-goal swing to beat Ajax to third place and the Europa League while knowing a two goal defeat would leave them with the worst in Europe tag.
Goals from Steven Berghuis, Mohammed Kudus and Francisco Conceicao made it six straight defeats for Ibrox men, as a James Tavernier penalty could not prevent them registering a goal difference of minus 20.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst's side are the first Scottish team to lose all of their group matches in Europe's top competition, while Ajax finished in third to secure a place in the knockout stages of the Europa League.
Putting together a team was a challenge in itself for van Bronckhorst, who had midfielder John Lundstram suspended and nine players injured - including defenders Ben Davies and Ridvan Yilmaz from the weekend win over Aberdeen.
Left-back Borna Barisic and veteran midfielders Steve Davis and Scott Arfield were the replacements.
Former Gers defender Calvin Bassey was in a strong Ajax side which struck first and early to dampen early home optimism.
In the fourth minute, to end a slick attack down the left, Kudus set up Berghuis to beat Gers goalkeeper Allan McGregor from the edge of the box.
It already looked ominous for Rangers - McGregor had to backtrack to grab a Berghuis lob from under his crossbar - but the under-strength home side eventually composed themselves and went in search of a leveller.
In the 13th minute the covering Bassey headed a Fashion Sakala header off the line after good work by winger Ryan Kent to get his cross in from the left.
However, another lapse in concentration allowed Ajax to extend their lead, this time Owen Wijndal the provider for Kudus - whose deflected shot came off teenage defender Leon King to beat McGregor.
The keeper pulled off a fine save from Steven Bergwijn minutes later and the first boos of frustration from the stands came soon afterwards when Kudus fired an effort just wide of the far post.
More muted boos greeted the half-time whistle but there was an attempt by fans to gee up their side at the start of the second half, although a comeback was highly unlikely.
Kudus had the ball in the net in the 55th minute following a sweeping move but Swedish referee Glenn Nyberg ruled it out for offside after a VAR check.
Just before the hour mark, Glen Kamara, Alfredo Morelos and Scott Wright came on for Davis, Antonio Colak and Malik Tillman but Ajax, backed by a big and vociferous travelling support, remained in control.
A terrific shot on the turn by Arfield in the 70th minute was tipped over the bar by the under-employed Ajax keeper Remko Pasveer but the corner was defended.
In the 84th minute Morelos took advantage of a mistake by Pasveer but failed to hit the target with the goal gaping.
Moments later, Rangers substitute Rabbi Matondo, on for Kent, was brought down by Edson Alvarez inside the box and Tavernier fired in the penalty..
However, Conceicao, only on the pitch for a minute, fired in from close range and referee Nyberg soon blew his whistle to signal the end of a campaign that goes down in history for all the wrong reasons for the Glasgow club.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst wants his players to learn from a tough campaign:
"You know the gap is there but you don't want to concede so many goals against you.
"If you see the goals we conceded in many games in this campaign, especially at home against Liverpool, we struggled in those moments and it's a big learning experience for us."
Rangers have three more Scottish Premiership games ahead of the World Cup. They travel to St Johnstone on Sunday, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 12pm. Rangers then face Hearts on Wednesday November 9; kick-off 7.45pm.
Their final match before the tournament is on Saturday November 12 when they travel to St Mirren, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 12.30pm.
Ajax also have three further Eredivisie fixtures ahead of the World Cup, facing PSV Eindhoven, Vitesse Arnhem and Emmen.