AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Ajax Amsterdam built a commanding early lead before overwhelming Rangers 4-0 in Champions League Group A at the Johan Cruyff Arena on Wednesday.
Edson Alvarez, Steven Berghuis and Mohammed Kudus scored in a one-sided first half and Steven Bergwijn added the fourth 10 minutes from time to complete the rout.
It was a dominant display from a new-look Ajax, who sold several key players in the off-season but still proved far too strong for the Scottish side, last season’s Europa League runners-up.
Defender Alvarez got the opening goal in the 17th minute with an easy header from a corner as the home side reaped reward for early pressure.
It continued as Ajax stroked the ball around the pitch, leaving Rangers chasing shadows with skipper Dusan Tadic at the heart of most of the enterprising attacking moves by the Dutch side.
The second goal came with a touch of fortune as Berghuis’s 32nd-minute effort was diverted into his own net by defender James Sand.
A minute later, the strength of Ghanaian international Mohammed Kudus led to a superb individual goal as he collected the ball, turned and ran with intent up the flank, holding off Rangers captain James Tavernier before hitting a sumptuous left- foot drive into the corner of the net.
A mazy dribbling run by Kudus almost created another superb goal in the 65th minute but he was thwarted close to goal.
Rangers looked to pull one back with a strike from Borna Barisic in the 70th minute but it was ruled offside after a VAR check.
A stray back pass from substitute Ryan Jack gifted Bergwijn the fourth goal in the 80th minute but he hurt himself in the process and limped off with a hamstring injury.
It was an unhappy return to the Netherlands for Rangers, who last month beat PSV Eindhoven away in the second leg of their playoff tie to reach the Champions League group phase for the first time since 2010.
They did hit the woodwork with a deflected shot and earned their first corner of the game two minutes into stoppage time.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ed Osmond)