Gio Reyna’s uneventful start for Borussia Dortmund was the highlight of yet another tough week for Americans in the Champions League, with the Rangers Yanks seeing a merciful end to their dire campaign, and Josh Cohen suffering another heavy loss.
Rangers 1 – 3 Ajax
James Sands and Malik Tillman both started for Rangers on Tuesday night, with a two-goal loss at home to Ajax providing a mercifully non-embarrassing end to an overall embarrassing Champions League return.
Rangers came into Tuesday’s game with a mathematical, albeit practically impossible, path to finish third in the group, however that would have involved them winning for the first time in campaign by an unprecedented margin.
Keeping true to form, they dropped their final game against Ajax to finish the group with no points, although to their credit, the 3-1 loss might have been their least embarrassing performance.
Sands played the full game in central defense, and had as solid of a game as one might expect in such a loss, with a 94% passing rate on his 53 attempts, only one foul committed, three clearances, and a pair of intercepted passes. Tillman was less effective in his 60 minutes as central attacking midfielder. He took one shot, had just 34 touches, attempted only 19 passes, and did little to threaten the Ajax defense.
The guests jumped to a 2-0 lead within the half-hour, with Steven Berghuis chipping the keeper from ten yards out in the fourth minute, then Mohammed Kudus coolly settling Owen Wijndal pass at the edge of the six-yard box, and taking his time before picking out a line just to the right of sands for the 2-0.
Kudus nearly netted the team’s third after 56 minutes, only to see his goal called back for an offside infraction.
James Tavernier did give the hosts a brief glimpse of an improbable comeback when he converted from the spot in the 87th minute after Rabbi Matondo was knocked over on a run into the left side of the area.
Nevertheless, these brief hopes of a consolation point were put to rest two minutes later, with Chico Conceicao receiving a ball from Dusan Tadic on a run into the left side of the Rangers area, before creating space between his two marking defenders and nailing his low shot to wrap up the final 3-1 win.
Rangers were already effectively dead in Europe before kickoff even began, and can now turn their attention towards a difficult domestic campaign that sees them already trailing archrivals Celtic in the Scottish Premiership race. Next up is a trip to St. Johnstone on Sunday.
FC Copenhagen 1 – 1 Borussia Dortmund
Gio Reyna continued his come-back for Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night, with a solid, and most importantly injury-free performance in their 1-1 draw at Copenhagen helping to secure their spot in next year’s knockout round.
BVB’s spot in the final 16 was already assured heading into the game due to their unassailable three-point lead and superior head-to-head record against third-place Sevilla.
Head coach Edit Terzic opted to start Reyna on the left side of a three-man midfield. The American played 63 minutes before his exit, and was a mixed bag, with a shot and two chances created, however he did play a minor role in the Copenhagen goal that was, in the end, of little consequence to the team’s fortunes.
Thorgan Hazard put the visitors ahead after 23 minutes, doing well to settle Felix Passlack’s high cross through the area, before slapping the ball in from 11 yards for the lead.
Four minutes before the end of the first half, Reyna allowed Roony Bardghji to keep the ball in-bounds on his side near the midfield stripe. This allowed Copenhagen to continue a lethal attack that ended with Viktor Claesson cutting it back to Hákon Arnar Haraldsson for an equalizer from eight yards out.
Three mintues past the hour, Reyna was pulled in favor of Julian Brandt. Neither team was able to make much of their second half chances, with the referee’s whistle blowing to award a point to each.
Dortmund finish second in Group G, setting them up for a spot in the competition’s final 16, with the opponent to be set in Monday’s draw. Domestically, they will attempt to remain in Germany’s top four when they host dismal Bochum in Bundesliga action on Saturday.
Maccabi Haifa 1 – 6 Benfica
Josh Cohen and Maccabi Haifa showed that last week’s five-goal loss to PSG wasn’t a fluke, losing by the same overall margin, this time in front of home crowd, to Benfica in their final European game until next summer’s qualifying rounds.
Josh Cohen went the distance in Haifa’s goal, picking the ball out of his own net six times, however making four saves to keep the margin of loss from extending into the double digits. John Brooks was on Benfica’s bench, where he stayed for the duration of the game.
A 20th-minute header from Benfica’s Goncalo Ramos was matched by Tjaronn Chery’s spot kick six minutes later, following a careless handball from Alexander Bah.
While the even result held until the half, the Portuguese team unloaded after the break, with a five-goal flurry over a 33-minute space of time.
Bah made up for his earlier error by serving up a fine cross for Petar Musa’s header just before the hour, then Alex Grimaldo nailed a 25-yard free kick ten minutes later for the 3-1 lead.
Rafa Silva made it four with 17 minutes left on the clock, capitalizing on a turnover in the midfield for a finessed six-yarder, then Henrique Araujo slipped through the defense to one-time Bah’s pass from short-range in the 88th minute.
Joao Mário completed the rout, netting Benfica’s sixth goal two minutes into injury time, with a spectacular 28-yard blast.
Despite the heavy loss, the last-place Group H finish, and the eye-popping -14 goal differential, Haifa can take solace in finishing equal with Juventus on three points, albeit still in last place, and having beaten the Italians in their lone bright spot of the group stage.
They are leaping towards another likely Israeli Premier League title, and visit Beitar Jerusalem on Sunday.
Owen Otasowie was not in uniform for Brugge on Tuesday night as a scoreless draw at Bayer Leverkusen secured their second-place finish in Group B, and a spot in the final 156 of the competition.
Tim Chandler was an unused substitute in Eintracht Frankfurt’s 2-1 road win over Sporting CP. The win saw the finish second in Group D, allowing them to advance to the knockout round.
Christian Pulisic played the final seven minutes for Chelsea on Wednesday night, after they already secured a 2-1 home win over Dinamo Zagreb that assured their spot in the final 16 top pot as Group E winners.
Sergiño Dest was nowhere to be found for AC Milan on Wednesday night, as their 4-0 win over Red Bull Salzburg secured second place in Group E, and a place in the knockout round.
Cameron Carter-Vickers was rested for Celtic on Wednesday, as the team ended a dismal, winless Champions League campaign with a 5-1 loss at Real Madrid. The result sees them finish last in Group F, and out of European competition.
Weston McKennie is out with an injury, missing the 2-1 loss by Juventus at home against Paris Saint-Germain. The loss finishes a comically bad Champions League campaign by the Bianconeri, which saw them take a laughable three points from six games. They await the result of the Europa League draw to learn how their now-second-tier European campaign will continue after the new year.