Rangers recorded the worst campaign in Champions League history when they lost 3-1 to Ajax in their final group game.
Rangers need a five-goal haul to beat Ajax to third place and the Europa League, while knowing a two-goal defeat would leave them with the worst in Europe tag.
Goals from Steven Berghuis, Mohammed Kudus and Francisco Conceicao made it six straight defeats for the Ibrox men as a James Tavernier penalty failed to prevent them registering a minus-20 goal difference.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side became the first Scottish team to lose all their group matches in Europe’s top competition, while Ajax finished third to secure a place in the knockout stages of the Europa League.
As Rangers end a poor campaign with unwanted record
Putting together a squad has been a challenge in itself for Van Bronckhorst, who has suspended midfielder John Lundstram and nine players injured – including defenders Ben Davies and Ridvan Yilmaz from the weekend’s win over Aberdeen.
Left-back Borna Barisic and veteran midfielders Steve Davis and Scott Arfield are the replacements.
Former Ger defender Calvin Bassey was in a strong Ajax side who were first and foremost to dampen early home optimism.
In the fourth minute, to finish off a slick attack down the left, Kudus set up Berghuis to beat Gers goalkeeper Allan McGregor from the edge of the box.
It already looked ominous for Rangers – McGregor had to recover to catch a Berghuis lob from under his crossbar – but the under-strength home side eventually composed themselves and went in search of a leveller.
Worst campaign in Champions League history
- Rangers are the first Scottish team 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 figure matched by Viktoria Plzen this term but eclipsed by the Scottish Premiership side.
In the 13th minute, the covering Bassey headed a Fashion Sakala header off the line after good work by winger Ryan Kent to get his cross from the left.
However, another lapse in concentration allowed Ajax to extend their lead, this time Owen Wijndal the provider for Kudus – whose deflected shot came from teenage defender Leon King to beat McGregor.
Minutes later, the keeper drew a good save from Steven Bergwijn, and the first boos of frustration from the stands came soon after when Kudus fired an effort just wide of the far post.
More muted boos greeted the half-time whistle but there was an attempt by fans to rally their side at the start of the second half, although a comeback was highly unlikely.
Kudus had the ball in the net in the 55th minute after a sweeping move, but Swedish referee Glenn Nyberg ruled it offside after a VAR check.
Just before the hour mark, Glen Kamara, Alfredo Morelos and Scott Wright came on for Davies, Antonio Colac and Malik Tillman, but Ajax, backed by a large and vociferous traveling support, remained in control.
A terrific shot on the turn by Arfield in the 70th minute was turned over the bar by under-used Ajax keeper Remko Pasveer but the corner was saved.
In the 84th minute, Morelos took advantage of a mistake by Pasveer but failed to hit the target with the gaping goal.
Moments later, Rangers substitute Rabbi Matondo, on for Kent, was brought down by Edson Alvarez in the box and Tavernier fired in the penalty.
However, Conceicao, only on the pitch for a minute, fired at close range and referee Nyberg soon blew his whistle to signal the end of a campaign that is going 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 concede so many goals against you.
“If you see the goals we’ve conceded in many games this campaign, especially at home against Liverpool, we struggled in those moments and it’s a big learning experience for us.”
Sunday, November 6 at 11:00 am
Kick off at 12:00 PM
Rangers have three more Scottish Premiership games ahead of the World Cup. They travel to St Johnstone on Sunday, live on Sky Sports; Kick off at 12:00. Rangers then face Hearts on Wednesday 9 November; Kick off at 7.45 pm.
Their final match before the tournament is on Saturday 12 November when they travel to St Mirren, live on Sky Sports; Kick off at 12.30 pm.
Ajax also have three further Eredivisie fixtures ahead of the World Cup, facing PSV Eindhoven, Vitesse Arnhem and Emmen.