‘Rangers long way off Champions League level’

Rangers are a long way off Champions League level, manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst admitted on Wednesday after they were hammered 4-0 by Ajax Amsterdam on their return to the group phase for the first time in more than a decade.

“A bad game from us,” Van Bronckhorst told a news conference after the Group A game at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

“We didn’t reach the level that is necessary for the Champions League.”

Rangers’ defeat came just days after they were beaten by the same scoreline by Celtic in the Old Firm derby.

“Eight goals in two games is too much for Rangers – that can never happen. The opponent can be strong, you can lose a game, but not the way we gifted the goals,” added the manager.

“Sometimes in football, you taste victory and success, and sometimes you taste defeat and feel low. When I had those moments in my career, those were the moments I wanted to fight even more. That’s what I expect from my players as well.”

Van Bronckhorst was asked why Rangers were vulnerable at set pieces, where Ajax took an early lead with a simple header from a corner.

“It’s about winning your duels,” he replied.

“We have tall players in the zone. I think the smallest player on the field blocked one of our players. It’s about the will to win your duel. Don’t be naive because giving away a goal like that at this level is very expensive.

“Of course, I expected something different. But as I said to my players: welcome to the Champions League, this is the level you have to attain.”

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 book a berth in the Champions League group phase for the first time since 2010.

“I think we achieved a higher level against PSV, especially in the away game. I think Ajax put the pressure on quicker, are more agile as a team, have more movement, and is a team that has been participating at Champions League level for years,” he said.

“You saw that today, the difference in level and pace that my players are not used to. That cost us the game in the first half.”

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