Rangers recorded the worst campaign in Champions League history as they lost 3-1 to Ajax in their final group game.
Rangers needed a five-goal swing to finish Ajax third and beat the Europa League, but knew a two-goal defeat would leave them with the worst mark in Europe.
Steven Berghuis, Mohammed Kudus and Francisco Conceicao made it six consecutive defeats for the Ibrox men, before a James Tavernier penalty prevented them recording a goal difference of minus 20.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side became the first Scottish team to lose all of their group games in Europe’s top competition, while Ajax finished third to secure a place in the Europa League’s knockout stages.
How Rangers ended a dismal campaign with an unsavory record
The weekend win over Aberdeen left nine players injured – including defenders Ben Davies and Ridvan Yilmas – with midfielder Jon Lundstrom suspended – making it a challenge for Van Bronkhorst to assemble a squad.
Left back Borna Barisic and veteran midfielders Steve Davis and Scott Arfield were replaced.
Former Gers defender Calvin Bassey was in a strong Ajax side that struck first and early to quell early home optimism.
In the fourth minute, Kudus Bergois was on hand to beat goalkeeper Alan McGregor from the edge of the box to finish off a fine strike down the left.
It already looked ominous for Rangers – McGregor had to step back to hold a Burguis lob under his crossbar – but the underpowered home eventually composed themselves and found an equaliser.
The worst campaign in Champions League history
- Rangers were the first Scottish team to go through the group without a point.
- Dinamo Zagreb had previously held the worst record since the 2011-12 season with a negative goal difference of 19 – matched by Viktoria Plzen this season but eclipsed by the Scottish Premiership side.
Fashion headed home in the 13th minute after good work from winger Ryan Kent to turn in a cross from the left.
However, another lapse in concentration allowed Ajax to extend their lead, this time Owen Wijndal was the provider for Kudus – his deflected shot deflected off teenage defender Leon King to beat McGregor.
A minute later the keeper made good on Steven Bergwijn’s brilliant save, and soon there was first frustration from the pitch when Kudus curled an effort just wide of the far post.
More muted boos greeted the half-time whistle but the fans tried to rally their side at the start of the second half, but a comeback looked unlikely.
In the 55th minute, a ball from Kudus remained in the post, which Swedish referee Glenn Nyberg ruled out as offside after a VAR review.
Before the hour mark, Glenn Kamara, Alfredo Morelos and Scott Wright came on for Davies, Antonio Colac and Malik Tillman, but Ajax remained in control thanks to a large and boisterous traveling support.
In the 70th minute, a terrific shot on Arfield’s turn was deflected over the bar by underserved Ajax keeper Remko Pasveer, but the corner was saved.
In the 84th minute, Morelos capitalized on a mistake by Pasveer and failed to find the target with a goal difference.
Moments later, Rangers substitute Rabbi Matondo, who played for Kent, was brought down in the box by Edson Alvarez and Tavernier was sent off in the penalty shootout.
However, Conceicao, on the pitch for just a minute, fired over from close range and referee Nyberg soon blew his whistle to mark the end of a campaign that will go down in history for all the wrong reasons for the Glasgow club.
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 get too many goals against you.
“If you look at the goals we’ve conceded in a lot of games this campaign, especially at home against Liverpool, we’ve struggled in those moments and it’s a big learning experience for us.”
Rangers have three more Scottish Premiership games before the World Cup. They travel to St Johnstone on Sunday, live on Sky Sports; Kick-off is 12pm. Rangers then face Hearts on Wednesday 9 November. Start at 7.45pm.
Their final game before the tournament is on Saturday 12 November when they travel to St Mirren, live on Sky Sports; Start at 12.30pm.
Ajax have three more Eredivisie games before the World Cup, with PSV Eindhoven, Vitesse Arnhem and Emmen.