Match ends, Rangers 0, Napoli 3.
Rangers 0-3 Napoli: Serie A leaders claim victory against 10-man hosts
Ten-man Rangers fell to their third consecutive heavy defeat without scoring despite a more encouraging performance against Napoli on a dramatic night in the Champions League.
Matteo Politano’s penalty and late strikes from Giacomo Raspadori and Tanguy Ndombele secured victory, but only after Allan McGregor twice denied Piotr Zielinski from the spot.
James Sands was sent off for conceding the first penalty and, though McGregor saved twice following a VAR check for encroachment, he did not deny Politano.
The Italian forward put the ball low into the corner beyond the reach of the 40-year-old Rangers keeper after Borna Barisic was penalised for handball.
Substitute Raspadori finished neatly with five minutes left to end the home side’s challenge before Ndombele stroked another goal home in stoppage time against a tiring Rangers backline.
Victory means Napoli top Group A with maximum points after two games, with Rangers winless ahead of back-to-back meetings with Liverpool next.
Those matches will prove another stern test for Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side, but this performance will provide more hope than their recent 4-0 defeats at the hands of Ajax and Celtic, despite the scoreline.
Until going down to 10 men, this was much more like the Rangers of last season’s Europa League, as they played with more energy from the start, after an emotionally-charged Ibrox paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth before kick-off.
Alfredo Morelos – starting for the first time since March – headed over after just 35 seconds as Rangers hunted Napoli high up the pitch. Scott Arfield forced a fine save from Alex Meret before the break and Connor Goldson went close shortly after the interval with a header.
Even as Napoli continued to threaten, McGregor – returning to the team due to Jon McLaughlin’s injury – was set to become the hero again when he denied Zielinski after Sands felled Giovanni Simeone in the box when he was clean through.
Politano swept in the rebound, but was judged to have encroached after a lengthy VAR check. That meant Zielenski stepped up again, but the Pole found no more joy the second time round as he went for the same corner.
But Napoli – who also created plenty of chances before eventually breaking the deadlock – kept coming and Politano got his goal when Barisic’s outstretched arm blocked a goal-bound shot, resulting in another penalty.
From there, Rangers struggled as Napoli used the strength of their bench to kill the match.
Raspadori only needed a sniff in the box to lash beyond McGregor, while Ndombele was imposing and swept home nicely after a tidy lay off from Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa.
It was another brutal lesson for Rangers against a top-quality team, as if they needed it following a difficult opening match in Amsterdam and with back-to-back games with Liverpool to come.
Man of the match – Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa
Napoli punish Rangers’ lapses – analysis
After a difficult fortnight, Rangers manager Van Bronckhorst got the response he would have wanted from kick-off, as his side turned in a much better performance.
Morelos, despite lacking sharpness, was much more of a handful for Napoli’s centre-backs when the ball wasn’t in the box, and he allowed Rangers to attack from deep and cause problems.
The team were applauded off vociferously at half-time, a signal of their improvement.
But as is always the case at this level, if you don’t take your chances and switch off for a few seconds, you get punished. Sands’ desperation to stop Simeone ended in the harshest punishment, as Napoli took advantage despite McGregor’s attempts.
With Liverpool home and away to come, qualification looks a tall order. But at least there is something to build on for Rangers, despite another chastening scoreline.
What they said
Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst: “The performance was really good, the result wasn’t good. I don’t think we deserved a 3-0 loss. We were well in the game from the first minute with some big chances.
“With 10 men and 1-0 down, you have to take risks, but we’re disappointed because we were well in the game at 11 v 11.”
- This is only the second time Rangers have lost both opening Champions League group games. The same thing happened in 1996-97 under Walter Smith.
- Since 2003-04, Napoli are only the third side to be awarded two or more penalties in back-to-back Champions League (also v Liverpool on MD1).
- Rangers had 10 shots – six more than against Ajax in their opening match. The last time they had that at least many without scoring was against Lyon in December 2007, losing 3-0 (also 10 shots).
- Sands is the third American to be sent off in the Champions League after Sacha Kljestan (2013 for Anderlecht) and John Brooks (2021 for Wolfsburg)
- Napoli have won both their opening group stage matches for only the second time (also in 2016/17). Meanwhile, seven goals is the most they’ve scored after two matches in a single campaign in the competition.
- Aged 40 years and 226 days, Allan McGregor became the Champions League’s fifth oldest player (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 (15:00 BST).
- 4LundstramBooked at 35mins
- 19SandsBooked at 55mins
- 2TavernierBooked at 74minsSubstituted forKamaraat 82′minutes
- 37ArfieldSubstituted forMatondoat 73′minutes
- 10DavisSubstituted forTillmanat 83′minutes
- 8JackSubstituted forKingat 63′minutes
- 31BarisicBooked at 67mins
- 20MorelosBooked at 21minsSubstituted forColakat 72′minutes
- 22Di Lorenzo
- 6Mário RuiSubstituted forOliveraat 77′minutes
- 99Zambo Anguissa
- 21PolitanoBooked at 42minsSubstituted forZerbinat 77′minutes
- 20ZielinskiSubstituted forNdombéléat 83′minutes
- 77KvaratskheliaSubstituted forElmasat 90′minutes
- 18SimeoneSubstituted forRaspadoriat 77′minutes
- 5Nunes Jesus
- Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz
Second Half ends, Rangers 0, Napoli 3.
VAR Decision: No Penalty Rangers.
Foul by Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli).
Ryan Kent (Rangers) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Stanislav Lobotka (Napoli).
Antonio-Mirko Colak (Rangers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Goal! Rangers 0, Napoli 3. Tanguy Ndombélé (Napoli) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by André-Frank Zambo Anguissa.
Foul by Amir Rrahmani (Napoli).
Antonio-Mirko Colak (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Napoli. Eljif Elmas replaces Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
Giacomo Raspadori (Napoli) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by John Lundstram (Rangers).
Goal! Rangers 0, Napoli 2. Giacomo Raspadori (Napoli) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Mathías Olivera.
Attempt saved. Alessio Zerbin (Napoli) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Tanguy Ndombélé.
Attempt missed. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Napoli) left footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Tanguy Ndombélé.
Substitution, Rangers. Malik Tillman replaces Steven Davis.
Substitution, Napoli. Tanguy Ndombélé replaces Piotr Zielinski.
Substitution, Rangers. Glen Kamara replaces James Tavernier.
Attempt missed. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Napoli) right footed shot from the left side of the box is too high. Assisted by Piotr Zielinski.