UEFA Champions League

Ajax 4 – 0 Rangers

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 have 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 re-evaluating 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, the 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.

source – BBC Sport

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