Rangers recorded their worst season in Champions League history as they lost 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 worst in Europe.
Goals from Steven Berghuis, Mohammed Kudus and Francisco Conceicao made it six straight defeats for the Ibrox men as a James Tavernier penalty could not prevent them from posting 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 book a place in the Europa League knockout stages.
How Rangers ended dismal campaign with unwanted record
Building a squad was a challenge in itself for van Bronckhorst, who had dropped midfielder John Lundstram 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 Davies and Scott Arfield were the replacements.
Former Gers defender Calvin Bassey was in a strong Ajax side that struck first and early to dent the home openers’ optimism.
In the fourth minute, to finish off a sharp attack down the left, Kudus set up Berghuis to beat Gers goalkeeper Allan McGregor from the edge of the box.
It was already looking ominous for Rangers – McGregor had to backtrack to catch a Bergwiese lob under his crossbar – but the underpowered home side eventually rallied and looked for an equaliser.
The worst season in Champions League history
- Rangers are the first Scottish side to go through the group without a point.
- Dinamo Zagreb previously held the unwanted worst record with a minus-19 goal difference from the 2011-12 season – a tally equaled by Viktoria Plzen this season but eclipsed by the Scottish Premiership side.
In the 13th minute the masked Bassey headed a Fashion Sakala header off the line after winger Ryan Kent had done good work to clear his cross from the left.
However, another lapse in concentration allowed Ajax to extend their lead, this time Owen Widal was the provider for Qudous – whose shot was saved by teenage defender Leon King to beat McGregor.
The keeper pulled off a fine save from Steven Bergwijn minutes later and the first frustrations from the stands came soon after when Kudus curled an effort just wide of the far post.
The half-time whistle was greeted by more boos, but there was an effort from the fans to lift their side at the start of the second half, although a comeback was very unlikely.
Kudus had the ball in the net in the 55th minute after a sweeping move, but Swedish referee Glenn Nyberg ruled it out for offside following a VAR review.
Just before the hour mark, Glen Kamara, Alfredo Morelos and Scott Wright crossed for Davis, Antonio Colak and Malik Tillman, but Ajax, backed by a large and vociferous traveling support, remained in control.
A terrific shot on the turn from Arfield in the 70th minute was tipped over the bar by inadequate Ajax keeper Remko Pasver, but the corner was saved.
In the 84th minute, Morelos took advantage of a mistake by Pasver but failed to score.
Moments later, Rangers substitute Rabbi Matodo, in place of Kent, was brought down by Edson Alvarez in the box and Tavernier converted the penalty.
However, Conceicao, only a minute on the pitch, fired over from close range and referee Nyberg blew the whistle shortly after to signal the end of a campaign that goes down in history for all the wrong reasons for the Glasgow club.
What did the manager say?
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 campaign, especially at home to Liverpool, we’ve 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. starting time 12 p.m. Rangers then face Hearts on Wednesday 9 November. start 19.45.
Their final game before the tournament is on Saturday 12 November when they travel to St Mirren, live on Sky Sports. start 12.30 pm
Ajax also have three more games in the Eredivisie before the World Cup, facing PSV Eindhoven, Vitesse Arnhem and Emmen.