Rangers vs Ajax

Rangers vs Ajax

On a memorable night in 1973, Ibrox Stadium played host to the first leg of the 1972 Super Cup, a match between Rangers and Ajax that would be remembered for the quality of the visitors' play. Though both legs of the tie were played in 1973, the match retains the name of the previous year's competition. The occasion was made all the more special by the presence of Johan Cruyff, who led an Ajax side that included several players who would go on to become legends of the game, such as Johnny Rep and Ruud Krol.

Despite the festive pre-match atmosphere, the match was not just an exhibition game, drawing a crowd of 60,000. In the early stages of the game, the play was tepid, perhaps due to the pre-match celebrations of Rangers' history. However, as the match wore on, it became as keenly contested as any. It must be said that Ajax appeared to be playing at a different level to Rangers, which was no disgrace given that clubs such as Internazionale, Benfica, and Arsenal had all found themselves in similar positions.

Cruyff, in particular, looked menacing. He was the creator of the opening goal, playing an inch-perfect pass to Johnny Rep, who slid the ball past the Rangers keeper. Though the Dutch side had been on top for much of the game, Rangers equalized six minutes later when Doddie MacDonald's shot slipped past the Ajax keeper. The goal galvanized both sides, and Cruyff, in particular, seemed to make it his personal mission to ensure an Ajax victory that night. He turned Tom Forsyth, leaving him for dead, and unleashed a powerful drive that found its way past the Rangers keeper, re-establishing Ajax's lead just before halftime.

In the second half, Rangers' task became all the more difficult when Alfie Conn was forced to leave the field due to injury. However, the fresh legs of Tommy McLean seemed to inject some vitality into the home side, who had their best spell of the game. The deft passing game that had seen the Dutchmen dominate play for much of the first half gave way to a more energized style that was to symbolize the coming years of Jock Wallace's tenure.

Though Rangers had their chances, Ajax ran out deserved winners, with Arie Haan scoring the third goal that sealed the victory. As Ian Archer wrote in The Herald the following day: "Ajax played as Picasso drew or Yeats wrote. Every line is full of thought, full of stark economy. Where other sides might embroider, they lance. They are truly the surgeons of the modern game."

Eight days later, Rangers traveled to the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam for the second leg of the tie, where they twice went ahead in the first half, only to be beaten 3-2 on the night and 6-3 on aggregate. Ajax went on to win three consecutive European Cups, cementing their place as one of the finest teams to have ever played the game.

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