AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Rangers’ first Champions League match in 12 years wound up being a sobering experience.
The Scottish club conceded three goals in the opening 33 minutes and was toyed with in the second half of a 4-0 loss at Ajax on Wednesday.
Edson Alvarez, Steven Berghuis and lively forwards Mohammed Kudus and Steven Bergwijn were the scorers for Ajax at Johan Cruijff Arena, continuing the Dutch champions’ strong start to the season after five straight wins in the Eredivisie.
While Ajax is showing no immediate effects of losing Sebastien Haller, Antony and Lisandro Martinez in the summer transfer window, Rangers looked badly short of quality at the start of a Group A campaign that will also include games against Napoli and Liverpool.
Just being back at this level is a feat for Rangers considering its bruising last decade that started with the club getting demoted to the bottom tier of Scottish soccer because of a financial crisis brought on by its former ownership’s reckless mismanagement.
However, the team has a major task in avoiding a last-place finish in the group after being outclassed by Ajax, which went ahead in the 17th minute when Alvarez headed home unmarked from Berghuis’ right-wing corner.
Rangers was unfortunate to fall further behind in the 32nd when Berghuis’ shot took a deflection off defender James Sands to deceive goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin and spin into the net.
A minute later it was 3-0 as Kudus charged into the area, holding off Rangers captain James Tavernier, and rifled a fierce shot across McLaughlin and into the far corner.
Rangers coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst made three substitutions at halftime, including the removal of Tavernier, in an attempt to turn the tide but that just allowed Ajax to gain a stronger foothold.
The hosts were relentless with their pressing and ball retention and Kudus particularly stood out, with one run seeing him dribble past three defenders before being denied by a last-gasp tackle as he was about to shoot.
Borna Barišić had a goal for Rangers ruled out by VAR for an offside in the build-up and Bergwijn wrapped up a convincing win in the 80th by pouncing on a loose pass backward from Ryan Jack to round the goalkeeper and slot into an empty net.
Rangers has lost back-to-back games 4-0, after a defeat to fierce rival Celtic in the Old Firm derby on Saturday.
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The Associated Press