Ajax ruined Rangers’ return to the Champions League group stages, inflicting a painful 4-0 defeat on the Glasgow giants.
Twelve years after they least graced Europe’s premier club competition, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side were no match for Ajax who took the lead after 17 minutes through a header from Edson Alvarez and Steven Berghuis doubled the lead courtesy of a wicked deflection off James Sands just after the half-hour mark.
Within a minute the lead was extended with the goal of the match when Mohammed Kudus held off defenders to enter the left hand side of the penalty area and fire an arrow which crashed into the post and into the net.
Rangers were unfortunate to have a fine curling effort from Borna Barisic ruled out 19 minutes from time, before Steven Bergwijn extended the lead when Ryan Jack’s poor ball set him free on goal to go around Jon McLaughlin and put not unfair gloss on the scoreline.
With Napoli and Liverpool the other sides in Group A, the task for Rangers will not get easier. They host the Neopolitan side at Ibrox next Tuesday.
Chastening 24 hours for the Old Firm – Celtic at least put in a half of decent football before being blown away in the second half by Real Madrid on Tuesday night, Rangers were outplayed here from the first whistle. Making the Champions League is so important for the Scottish giants to compete financially at all, but they will hope the six matches do not become a string of embarrassing reverses. Despite losing their coach in the summer and stars in the transfer window, such is the strength of the Ajax system, players seem to come into the first xi and fit so perfectly. They will certainly be no easy beats for Liverpool and Napoli. Their status, as a giant in a smaller European league punching above their weight with the wealthier clubs, is one Rangers must hope one day to emulate, but they seem a long way off it now.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Mohammed Kudus (Ajax) – What a contrast for the Ghanaian forward from his Champions League debut against Liverpool, where he tore his meniscus after six minutes. He was electric at the Johan Cruyff Arena and clearly the best player on the pitch. His goal was sensational, but he could have scored an even better one in the second half when he dribbled past three players in the box before losing his footing and control of the ball. He already looks capable of following so many of his predecessors to the bigger leagues in Europe.
Ajax: Pasveer 6; Rensch 7, Timber 7, Bassey 7, Blind 7; Taylor 7, Alvarez 8, Berghuis 8; Tadic 8, Kudus 9*, Bergwijn 8.
Subs: Baas 6, Ocampos 6, Klaasen 6, Sanchez 6, Brobbey 6.
Rangers: McLaughlin 6; Tavernier 5, Goldson 5, Sands 6, Barisic 6; Kamara 5, Lundstram 5; Wright 5, Tillman 6, Kent 6; Colak 5.
Subs: King 6, Matondo 5, Jack 4, Davis 6.
17′ GOAL FOR AJAX! Tadic sends a corner to the six-yard box where Alvarez climbs highest to head home.
32′ GOAL FOR AJAX! Berghuis’ fairly tame effort from the edge of the box was deflected in off the leg of Sands.
34′ GOAL FOR AJAX! A wonderful goal from Kudus, he ran directly into the left hand side of the penalty area, shrugging off challenges before launching a rocket which crashed in off the post.
71′ GOAL FOR RANGERS! A wonderful strike from Barisic, cutting in from the left flank and curling an effort past the Ajax keeper with his right foot.
72′ GOAL RULED OUT! This seems harsh, a long time earlier in the move Kent was just offside so the goal gets cancelled.
80′ GOAL FOR AJAX! Bergwijn takes advantage from Jack’s poor ball out too far wide of Goldson and rounds the keeper before slotting home – then promptly falls to the ground with apparent cramp.