Limp Rangers overwhelmed as rampant Ajax run riot

Edson Alvarez’s free header start Ajax on the path to victory

Rangers’ celebrated Champions League return descended into a debacle as ruthless Ajax ran riot in Amsterdam.

A nightmare first half obliterated hopes of a maiden win in the Dutch capital to mark the end of a 12-year absence from Europe’s top tournament.

Instead, the Europa League runners-up were outclassed thanks to goals from Edson Alvarez, Steven Berghuis, Mohammed Kudus and Steven Bergwijn.

Borna Barisic’s second-half strike was ruled out by VAR to top a grim night.

The defeat is Rangers’ second 4-0 defeat in the space of a week after their Old Firm slump at Celtic Park on Saturday.

On the eve of battle, manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst did not flinch. The Dutchman fielded questions about potentially changing elements of his team after Saturday’s Celtic drubbing. Most notably goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin.

“You keep trusting your players and give them confidence because in the past we have bounced back from heavy defeats and that’s what we have to do tomorrow as well,” he said.

But given that fewer than 24 hours later his team were 3-0 down at the break and his captain had been substituted, Van Bronckhorst could be forgiven for revaluating the situation.

Even after making it to the Europa League final, graduating to the Champions League was always going to be a step up. Early on, Rangers were defensive but compact, tentative but tight enough. Then the floodgates opened on a torrid night.

Just moments after a reticent Ryan Kent ducked out of a great counter-attack opportunity, the ball was in the Rangers net. A corner should have been dealt with. Instead Alvarez made a two-step move to evade a sleeping James Sands and head in.

The waves of red and white attacks kept crashing against an increasingly nervous and sluggish Rangers defence. Devyne Rensch had one effort saved and watched another fly wide, before the second goal arrived just after the half hour.

Berghuis found room on the edge of the Rangers box to shape up a shot. His effort looked as if it was going to be dealt with by the diving McLaughlin, only for a heavy Sands deflection to divert it away from the goalkeeper.

Ajax’s F-Side Ultras in the stands were still in full party mode when Kudus crashed in the third, but it was oh so easy.

His close control and spin caught James Tavernier napping, with the Rangers captain failing to make a convincing job of stopping the Ghanaian galloping forward and skelping a thunderous shot across McLaughlin and in off the upright.

Van Bronckhorst made three substitutes at half-time, including removing Tavernier, but it took until 20 minutes before the end before Rangers mustered much of a reaction.

Kent’s cutback for Barisic opened the defender up to arc a sumptuous strike into the far corner, but after a lengthy VAR check, it was clear Kent was a good few yards offside in the build-up.

But the night would get even worse, Bergwijn pouncing on a ropey Ryan Jack backpass to round McLaughlin and finish.

Player of the match – Mohammed Kudus

Mohammed Kudus
Steven Bergwijn got the big build-up, the enigmatic Kudus was a joy to watch

Does Van Bronckhorst have to roll the dice? – analysis

It is easy to point at Rangers’ static defending. As it is to heap praise on a patient Ajax who tied their opponents in knots with intricate triangles, off the ball running and more dropped shoulders than you could shake a stick at.

But the mantra “defending starts from the front” springs to mind. And Rangers simply were not at it. Antonio Colak, the Ibrox side’s focal point up front, barely touched the ball. Malik Tillman tried but got little support before his removal at the break.

Kent cut a frustrated figure on the left and it’s clear to see why with just one goal this calendar year. There were brief flashes late on, but Rangers need more from him.

This team have proven they can dazzle in Europe against clubs of this calibre, and Van Bronckhorst spoke about no knee-jerk reactions pre-match. But with back-to-back 4-0 defeats, a reaction is needed quickly to justify the trust he has put in his team.

What they said

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst: “Eight goals in two games is too much for Rangers – that can never happen. The opponent can be strong, you can lose a game, but not the way we gifted the goals.

“Sometimes in football, you taste victory and success, and sometimes you taste defeat and feel low. When I have those moments in my career, those are the moments I wanted to fight even more. That’s what I expect from my players as well.”

Ajax’s former Rangers defender Calvin Bassey: “I’m buzzing, but it’s a weird feeling. It wasn’t easy for us we just executed at the right times. There’s still work that can be done for us to get better and we’re pleased with the performance.”

Match stats

  • Ajax have won each of their last four home games in the Champions League group stage – their best run since December 1995 (also four).
  • Rangers conceded three goals in the first half of a Champions League match for the second time, and the first since October 1995 against Juventus.
  • They have lost all five European meetings with Ajax, the most they’ve faced a side in all European competitions without avoiding defeat.
  • There were just 106 seconds between Ajax’s second (31:14) and third (33:00) goals. It was the earliest the Dutch side have scored three goals from the start of a Champions League match.
  • In Connor Goldson, Ryan Kent, John Lundstram and James Tavernier, Rangers were the first non-English club to name as many as four different English players in a starting XI for a Champions League match.

What’s next?

Rangers travel to Pittodrie on Saturday (13:00 BST) to face Aberdeen, with their next Champions League game coming at Ibrox against Napoli on 13 September.



Formation 4-3-3

  • 22Pasveer
  • 15Rensch
  • 2Timber
  • 3Bassey
  • 17BlindSubstituted forBaasat 82′minutes
  • 23BerghuisSubstituted forKlaassenat 82′minutes
  • 4ÁlvarezSubstituted forSánchezat 88′minutes
  • 8Taylor
  • 10Tadic
  • 20KudusSubstituted forBrobbeyat 89′minutes
  • 7BergwijnSubstituted forOcamposat 82′minutes


  • 1Stekelenburg
  • 6Klaassen
  • 9Brobbey
  • 11Ocampos
  • 13Kaplan
  • 16Gorter
  • 18Lucca
  • 19Sánchez
  • 21Grillitsch
  • 25Baas
  • 29Magallán
  • 35Fernandes da Conceição


Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 33McLaughlin
  • 2TavernierSubstituted forKingat 45′minutes
  • 6Goldson
  • 19Sands
  • 31Barisic
  • 18KamaraSubstituted forDavisat 78′minutes
  • 4Lundstram
  • 23WrightSubstituted forMatondoat 45′minutes
  • 71TillmanSubstituted forJackat 45′minutesBooked at 62mins
  • 14Kent
  • 9Colak


  • 1McGregor
  • 3Yilmaz
  • 8Jack
  • 10Davis
  • 17Matondo
  • 20Morelos
  • 26Davies
  • 28McCrorie
  • 30Sakala
  • 37Arfield
  • 38King
  • 44Devine

Tobias Stieler


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