Ten-man Rangers fell to a third successive heavy defeat without conceding a goal, despite a more encouraging performance on a sensational Champions League night against Napoli.
Matteo Politano’s penalty and late strikes from Giacomo Raspadori and Tanguy Ndombele secured victory, but only after Allan McGregor had twice fouled Piotr Zielinski.
James Sands was sent off for giving away the first penalty and, although McGregor saved twice after a VAR review, he did not deny Politano.
The Italian forward put the ball out of the reach of the 40-year-old Rangers keeper in the corner after Borna Barisic was booked for handball.
Substitute Raspadori neatly finished off the home side’s challenge with five minutes to go, before Ndombel stroked home another goal against a tiring Rangers defender.
The win means Napoli have taken their first point in Group A after two games, with Rangers remaining without a win ahead of their meetings with Liverpool.
Those games will be another stern test for Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side, but this performance will give more hope than the recent 4-0 defeats at the hands of Ajax and Celtic, despite the lead.
Down to 10 men, it was more like last season’s Europa League Rangers, who played with more energy from the start as an emotional Ibrox paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth from the start.
Alfredo Morelos – who started for the first time since March – boss Rangers after just 35 seconds to hunt Napoli up the pitch. Scott Arfield forced a fine save from Alex Meret before half-time and Connor Goldson went close with a header after the interval.
Although Napoli continued to threaten, McGregor – who returned to the team due to Jon McLaughlin’s injury – would again become the hero when Zielinski was denied after Sands felled Giovanni Simeone in the box when he was clear.
Politano made the rebound, but after a lengthy VAR check it was deemed to have gone in. That meant Zielenski was up again, but the Pole found no more joy when he went into the same corner in the second round.
But Napoli – who created plenty of chances before finally breaking the deadlock – kept coming and Politano got his own goal when Barisic’s outstretched arm blocked a shot at goal, leading to another penalty.
From there, Rangers struggled as Napoli used the strength of their bench to kill off the game.
Raspadori only needed a sniff in the box to speed past McGregor, and Ndombele teed it up and headed home beautifully after a neat clearance from Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa.
It was another brutal lesson for Rangers against a top-quality side, as if they needed it after a difficult opening game in Amsterdam and back-to-back games with Liverpool.
Andre-Frank Zambo – Man of the Match
Napoli punish Rangers’ mistakes – analysis
After a difficult fortnight, Rangers manager Van Bronckhorst got the answer he would have liked from the start as his team put in a much better performance.
Morelos, despite his lack of sharpness, was much more for Napoli’s centre-backs when the ball was not in the box, allowing Rangers to attack from deep and cause problems.
The team was given a standing ovation at halftime, a sign of improvement.
But as is always the case at this level, if you don’t take advantage of your chances and shut down within seconds, you will be punished. Sands’ desperation to stop Simeone culminated in the harshest penalty as Napoli took advantage despite McGregor’s best efforts.
With Liverpool home and away, qualifying looks high. But at least there is something to build on for the Rangers, despite another sharp score.
- This is the second time Rangers have lost both of their opening Champions League group games. The same thing happened in 1996-97 under Walter Smith.
- Since 2003-04, Napoli are only the third team to concede two or more penalties in the Champions League (also against Liverpool in MD1).
- Rangers had 10 shots – six more than against Ajax in the opening game. The last time they scored at least a lot was in December 2007 against Lyon, losing 3-0 (also 10 shots).
- Sands is the third American to be sent off in the Champions League behind Sacha Kljestan (2013 at Anderlecht) and John Brooks (2021 at Wolfsburg).
- Napoli have won both of their opening two games for only the second time (also in 2016/17). Meanwhile, they have scored the most goals after two games in a single campaign in the competition with seven goals.
- Aged 40 years and 226 days, Allan McGregor was the fifth oldest player in the Champions League (behind Marco Ballotta 43y 252d, Gianluigi Buffon 42y 315d, Oleksandr Shovkovskiy 41y 255d and Mark Schwarzer 41y 206d).
Rangers are at home to Dundee United in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday (3pm BST).
- 4LundstramBooked in 35 minutes
- 19the areasBooked in 55 minutes
- 2bartenderBooked in 74 minutesreplaced bythe camerain 82′minutes
- 37Arfieldreplaced byThank youin 73′minutes
- 10Davisreplaced byTillmanin 83′minutes
- 8Jackreplaced bythe kingin 63′minutes
- 31BarisicBooked in 67 minutes
- 20MorelosBooked in 21 minutesreplaced byCokein 72′minutes
- 17Thank you
- 18the camera
- 30The jackal
- 38the king
- 22by Lorenzo
- 6Mario Ruireplaced byOliverain 77′minutes
- 99Zambo Anguissa
- 21PolitanoBooked in 42 minutesreplaced byServerin 77′minutes
- 20Zielinskireplaced byNdombelein 83′minutes
- 77Kvaratskheliareplaced bythe diamondin 90′minutes
- 18Simeonreplaced byto the raspin 77′minutes
- 5Nunes Jesus
- 7the diamond
- 81to the rasp
- Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz
Game over, Rangers 0, Napoli 3.
Second half ends, Rangers 0, Napoli 3.
VAR Decision: Penalty Rangers no.
Foul by Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli).
Ryan Kent (Rangers) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Stanislav Lobotka (Napoli).
Antonio-Mirko Cola (Rangers) wins a free kick.
Goal! Rangers 0, Napoli 3. Tanguy Ndombélé (Napoli) right footed shot from the center of the box to the center of the goal. Support from André-Frank Zambo Anguissa.
Foul by Amir Rrahmani (Napoli).
Antonio-Mirko Cola (Rangers) wins a free kick in defense.
Change, Naples. Eljif Elmas instead of Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
Giacomo Raspadori (Napoli) wins a free kick.
John Lundstram (Rangers) takes a free kick.
Goal! Rangers 0, Napoli 2. Giacomo Raspadori (Napoli) left footed shot from the center of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Mathías Olivera.
The attempt has been saved. Alessio Zerbin (Napoli) right footed shot is blocked. Support from Tanguy Ndombélé.
An empty attempt. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Napoli) left footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right. Support from Tanguy Ndombélé.
Substitute, Rangers. Malik Tillman replaces Steven Davis.
Change, Naples. Tanguy Ndombélé replaces Piotr Zielinski.
Substitute, Rangers. Glen Kamara replaces James Tavernier.
An empty attempt. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Napoli) right footed shot is too high. Support from Piotr Zielinski.