Rangers recorded their worst campaign in Champions League history when they lost 3-1 to Ajax in their last group game.
Rangers needed a five-point swing to beat third-placed Ajax in the Europa League as they knew a two-goal defeat would leave them with the worst tag in Europe.
Goals from Steven Berghuis, Mohammed Kudus and Francisco Conceicao made it six successive deficits for the Ibrox men, as James Tavernier’s penalty could not stop them registering a 20-goal difference. .
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side became the first Scottish side to lose all of their group games in Europe’s top competition, while Ajax finished third to earn a place in the Europa League.
How Rangers ended a disappointing campaign with an unwanted record
Assembling the squad was a challenge in itself for van Bronckhorst, who had suspended midfielder John Lundstram and nine players injured – including defenders Ben Davies and Ridvan Yilmaz from Aberdeen’s weekend exit.
On the left Borna Barisic and veteran midfielders Steve Davis and Scott Arfield are the replacements.
Former Gers defender Calvin Bassey was in a strong Ajax side that struck early and early to dampen his early hopes.
In the fourth minute, ending a sliding attack down the left, Kudus set up Berghuis to beat Gers goalkeeper Allan McGregor from the edge of the box.
It was looking bleak for Rangers – McGregor had to go back to catch Berghuis’ tackle from under his feet – but his strong side finally made up for it. and went looking for someone who tried to fit.
The worst campaign in Champions League history
- Rangers are the first Scottish team to go through the league without a point.
- Dinamo Zagreb previously held the worst unbeaten record with a goal difference of 19 from the 2011-12 season – a tally matched by Viktoria Plzen this time but surpassed by the Scottish side.
In the 13th minute, the covering Bassey beat Fashion Sakala’s header off the line after good work by midfielder Ryan Kent to turn in his cross from the left.
However, another break allowed Ajax to extend their lead, this time with Owen Wijndal providing Kudus – whose deflected shot deflected off young defender Leon King to beat McGregor.
The keeper pulled off a good save from Steven Bergwijn minutes later and the first flurry of confusion from the stands came soon after when Kudus fired an effort from near the far post.
Some muted boos greeted the half-time whistle, but the fans tried to lift their side at the start of the second half, although the comeback was not easy.
Kudus had the ball in the net in the 55th minute after a lot of movement, but Swedish referee Glenn Nyberg ruled it offside after a VAR review.
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 large and strong traveling support, remained in control .
Arfield’s powerful shot in the 70th minute was tipped over the bar by off-duty Ajax keeper Remko Pasveer but the corner was saved.
In the 84th minute Morelos took advantage of Pasveer’s mistake but failed to hit the target with a goal gap.
Moments later, Rangers substitute Rabbi Matondo, for Kent, was brought down by Edson Alvarez in the box and Tavernier fired home the penalty.
However, Conceicao, on the pitch for just a minute, fired over from close range and referee Nyberg blew the whistle quickly to signal the end of a campaign that is going down in history for all the wrong reasons for the Glasgow club.
What the boss said
Giovanni van Bronckhorst wants his players to learn from a difficult campaign:
“You know the gap is there, but you don’t want to let too many goals go against you.
“If you see the goals we’ve scored in many games this campaign, especially at home against Liverpool, we struggled at that time and it’s a big lesson for us.”
Rangers have three more Scottish Premiership games before the World Cup. They travel to St Johnstone on Sunday, live on Sky Sports; starting at 12pm. Rangers then face Hearts on Wednesday 9 November; starting at 7.45pm.
Their final pre-season game is on Saturday 12 November when they travel to St Mirren, live on Sky Sports; starting at 12:30 pm.
Ajax also have three more Eredivisie games before the World Cup, facing PSV Eindhoven, Vitesse Arnhem and Emmen.