GIOVANNI VAN BRONCKHORST and his Rangers players walked into a recurring nightmare in Amsterdam last night.
The Ibrox side were attempting to shake off a Celtic hangover after their 4-0 pounding in the Premiership at Parkhead on Saturday.
Van Bronckhorst winced when his team went in 3-0 down at the interval in the east end of Glasgow following a double strike from Liel Abada and another from Filipe Jota.
The Dutchman desperately tried to revive his troops for the Champions League Group A encounter against Ajax in the Johan Cruyff Arena.
And was caught up in an embarrassing deja vu scenario as his opponents fired in three goals without reply in the opening 45 minutes and then claimed a fourth after a blunder by substitute Ryan Jack.
CALM BEFORE THE STORM…Giovanni van Bronckhorst is all smiles at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
A stunned Van Bronckhorst admitted that the Ibrox team simply can’t compete with their cash-rich rivals at this prestigious level.
Ajax have brought in the best part of £200million in player sales this summer – including £85million from Manchester United for winger Antony – and they spent around half of that, including £20million on Gers left-back Calvin Bassey who claimed he was “buzzing” after his new team’s demolition job in Amsterdam.
The Ibrox boss admitted: “To compete in the Champions League you need hundreds of millions, otherwise you can’t compete.
“If you look at all the squads you are facing, now, look at Ajax, they sold players for over £200million, Liverpool as well, I think for us it is too much to ask.
“We want to compete, but we want to compete with the squad we have and the squad we are capable of making.
“We knew it was going to be tough.”
HELPLESS…goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin is beaten after Steven Berghuis’ shot takes a deflection off James Sands.
Struggling skipper James Tavernier, who was brushed aside by Mohammed Kudos before he blasted in the third goal, was replaced at half-time by youngster Leon King.
Van Bronckhorst, speaking to BT Sport, explained: “Tav’ already had a knock a couple of weeks ago and is struggling a little bit with his fitness.
“But I think it was good to change it, we put Leon in because you could see he was struggling in the first-half.
“Everything goes quicker in the Champions League, the ball control, speed of passing, is from a very high level.
“In the first-half, we couldn’t reach that level, we struggled and every mistake was punished against Ajax.
“You don’t want to give space away against Ajax. I think we gave less space away in the second-half when we played a little bit more defensively.
“In the first-half we went too quick with our opponent, in those moments we should have stayed more in our zones.
“Of course, the performance wasn’t good, but I think the players are committed, they want to play the way we want.
“They want to fight and work hard but it looks against an opponent like Ajax when you are not organised the way you should do it is really tough.
“The level we have to reach in Champions League is very different.”
THREE AND EASY…Jon McLaughlin is stranded as an angled drive from Mohammed Kudos flies past him for Ajax’s third goal. Ibrox duo Connor Goldson and James Tavernier can only look on in dismay.
Jack, who gifted the Dutch side their fourth goal with a dreadful back-pass that was seized upon by striker Steve Bergwijn, added: “Ajax are one of the best teams I have played against and watched, so we need to learn quickly.
“There is no time to dwell and feel sorry for ourselves. It’s been tough, no doubt about it.
“But what I will say is the fight and determination, all of that will be needed this weekend.
“Having two 4-0 defeats on the bounce does affect you, individually and collectively.
“But that’s for us in the changing room to stick together — and along with the staff, we will fight our way through it.
“It’s important that we come out on Saturday and do that.
“The games are coming thick and fast and we don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves.
“We need to stick together. We are disappointed and we should be.
“All we can do now is pick ourselves up as we have a massive game coming up against Aberdeen on Saturday
“We know how tough a venue that is and after two defeats, it’s important we learn and put it right this weekend.
“We have let a lot of people down and we need to apologise to the fans who have sacrificed to make this trip and back us.
“All we can do is apologise and make sure we are ready to get the win on Saturday.”