Rangers recorded their worst campaign in Champions League history as they lost 3-1 to Ajax in the final group stage.
Rangers needed a five-goal haul to beat Ajax into third place and into the Europa League, and a two-goal defeat would leave them with the worst record in Europe.
Goals from Steven Bergwiese, Mohamed Qudus and Francisco Concecao made it six consecutive defeats at Ibrox as James Tavernier’s free-kick kept them 20 points clear.
Giovanni van Bronkhorst’s side became the first Scottish side to lose all of their top-flight group games and Ajax secured their place in the Europa League knockout stages.
How Rangers ended the campaign with an unwanted record
Assembling a squad has been a challenge for Van Bronkhorst, with midfielder Jon Lundstram suspended and nine injured – including defenders Ben Davies and Ridvan Yilmaz, who were in 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 as he struck first and early to dampen any early home optimism.
In the fourth minute, Qudus set up Bergouin to finish off a boring attack from the left, which beat Gers goalkeeper Allan McGregor from the edge of the box.
It was already looking ominous for Rangers – McGregor had to get back to hold Bergwiese’s lob under the crossbar – but the under-strength home side finally composed themselves and went in search of a level keeper.
The worst campaign in the history of the Champions League
- Rangers are the first Scottish team to go through the group stage without a point.
- Dinamo Zagreb had the unwanted record of reducing their goal difference to 19 from the 2011-2012 season – this time being eclipsed by the Scottish Premiership side when they competed at Victoria Square.
In the 13th minute, the cover Basse headed in a good effort from winger Ryan Kent who headed in from the left.
However, another lapse in concentration allowed Ajax to extend their lead, this time when Owen Windall, the Quds-provider, curled the ball past young defender Leon King to beat McGregor.
The goalkeeper made a good save from Steven Bergwijn minutes later, and after the initial flurry from the stands, Qudus converted a long-range shot.
A more muted Boos received the half-time whistle but early in the second half the fans tried to get their side to grips, although a comeback looked unlikely.
In the 55th minute, Qudus found the ball in the net with a good shot, but the Swedish referee Glenn Nyberg ruled it offside after a VAR check.
Before the hour mark, Glenn Camara, Alfredo Morelos and Scott Wright came on for Davies, Antonio Colac and Malik Tillman, but Ajax remained in control thanks to a large and vocal traveling support.
In the 70th minute, Arfield’s shocking shot on the turn was hit by Ajax goalkeeper Remko Pasvir, who was on the crossbar, but the corner was saved.
In the 84th minute, Morelos failed to make an attempt at the target using the mistake made by Passover.
Moments later, Rangers were rewarded when Kent substitute Raby Matondo was brought down in the box by Edson Alvarez and Tavernier scored from the penalty spot.
However, Conceicao shot wide just minutes from time and referee Nyberg blew the whistle shortly after, marking the end of the Glasgow club’s history-making campaign for the wrong reason.
What the manager said
Giovanni van Bronckhorst wants his players to learn from a tough campaign:
“You know the gap is there but you don’t want to concede that many goals against you.
“If you look at the goals we’ve scored in a lot of games this campaign, especially at home against Liverpool, we’ve struggled in those moments and it’s a great learning experience for us.”
Rangers have three Scottish Premiership games before the World Cup. They travel to St Johnstone on Sunday, live on Sky Sports; Check-out 12pm. Rangers then face Hearts on Wednesday, November 9. Departure – 7:45 p.m.
Their last match before the tournament is on Saturday 12th November when they travel to St Mirren on Sky Sports; Check-out 12:30.
Ajax have three more Eredivisie games before the World Cup, facing PSV Eindhoven, Vitesse Arnhem and Emmen.