Rangers recorded their worst season in Champions League history after losing 3-1 to Ajax in their final group game.
Rangers needed five goals to beat third-placed Ajax and the Europa League, knowing a two-goal defeat would leave them bottom in Europe.
Goals from Steven Berghuis, Mohammed Kudus and Francisco Conceicao made it six defeats in a row for the Ibrox men as a James Tavernier penalty could not prevent them recording a minus-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 secure a place in the knockout stages of the Europa League.
As Rangers ended the dismal campaign with an unwanted record
Making a team was a challenge in itself for van Bronckhorst, who had suspended midfielder John Lundstram and nine injured players – 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 that struck first and early to dampen early optimism at home.
In the fourth minute, to end a deft attack down the left, Kudus set up Berghuis to beat Gers keeper Allan McGregor from the edge of the area.
It was already looking ominous for Rangers – McGregor had to pull away to grab a Berghuis ball from under his crossbar – but the underdog home side eventually composed themselves and went in search of an equaliser.
The worst campaign in Champions League history
- Rangers are the first Scottish team to go through the group without a point.
- Dinamo Zagreb previously held the worst away record with a minus-19 goal difference from 2011-12 – a tally matched by Viktoria Plzen this season but eclipsed by the Scottish Premiership side.
In the 13th minute Bassey headed Fashion Sakala’s header off the line after good work by winger Ryan Kent to head home his cross from the left.
However, another lapse in concentration allowed Ajax to extend their lead, this time Owen Wijndal providing Kudus – whose shot deflected off teenage defender Leon King to beat McGregor.
The keeper made a good save from Steven Bergwijn minutes later and the first gasps of frustration from the stands came soon after when Kudus fired an effort just wide of the far post.
More muted attacks greeted the half-time whistle but there was an effort from the fans to boost their team at the start of the second half, although a comeback was highly unlikely.
Kudus had the ball in the net in the 55th minute after a sweeping move, but Swedish referee Glenn Nyberg ruled him 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 large and vociferous traveling support, remained in control.
A terrific curling shot from Arfield in the 70th minute was met by out-of-work Ajax keeper Remko Pasveer, but the corner was saved.
In the 84th minute, Morelos took advantage of a mistake by Pasveer, but failed to hit the goal with the opening goal.
Moments later, Rangers substitute Rabbi Matondo, in place of Kent, was brought down by Edson Alvarez in the box and Tavernier fired home the penalty.
However, Conceicao, only on the pitch for a minute, fired over from close range and referee Nyberg quickly blew the whistle to signal the end of a campaign that is going down in history for all the wrong reasons for the Glasgow club.
What the manager 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 concede so many goals against you.
“If you look at the goals we’ve conceded in a lot of games this season, especially at home against Liverpool, we’ve struggled in those moments and it’s a big learning experience for us.”
What is expected next?
Sunday, November 6 at 11:00 am
Departure at 12:00
Rangers have three more games in the Scottish Premiership before the World Cup. They travel to St Johnstone on Sunday, live on Sky Sports; departure time 12:00. Rangers then face Hearts on Wednesday November 9; departure at 19:45.
Their final game before the tournament is on Saturday 12 November when they travel to St Mirren, live on Sky Sports; departure time 12:30.
Ajax also have three more Eredivisie games before the World Cup, facing PSV Eindhoven, Vitesse Arnhem and Emmen.