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Rangers: James Sands the villain in Champions League embarrassment

Rangers endured a miserable return to Champions League action on Wednesday evening, with Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s Ibrox side succumbing to a hefty 4-0 defeat at the hands of Eredivisie giants Ajax, in Amsterdam.

The Gers boss would no doubt have been looking for a response from his players following Saturday’s dismal Old Firm derby display, although the Dutchman’s woes were only compounded as his side were once again totally outclassed.

Buoyed by the individual genius of young Mohammed Kudus, the hosts ran riot in what was a brutal first-half display from Alfred Schreuder’s men, racing into a three-goal lead as the Glasgow side’s defensive deficiencies were laid bare.

As BBC Sport’s Tom English quipped, it was like “men against mannequins” in the Johan Cruyff Arena, with the visitors simply struggling to get any sort of foothold in what was their first group stage match in the competition since the 2010/11 season.

Even a raft of half-time changes – which included the withdrawal of skipper James Tavernier – could not prevent further torment, as former Tottenham Hotspur flop Steven Bergwijn slotted late on following a lax backpass from substitute Ryan Jack.

While the decision to replace the aforementioned Tavernier – who was shrugged off far too easily in the build-up to Kudus’ wonder-strike to make it 3-0 – will likely grab the headlines, one man who again failed to deliver was United States international, James Sands.

The 22-year-old has been something of a makeshift option at centre-back amid the injury woes to the likes of Ben Davies and John Souttar, with that possible unsuitability to the role seemingly playing its part in what was another measly performance.

Pundit Mark Hateley had previously suggested that the youngster was something of a “problem” in that defensive berth during the defeat to Union Saint-Gilloise last month, while he was simply run ragged by Celtic’s fluid forward line at the weekend.

It was a similar story in Holland as he was notably one of a handful of players who simply stood by as Edson Alvarez powered in an early free header, while he also helped guide Steven Berhuis’ effort into his own net midway through the first half.

Should James Sands be dropped on Saturday?

No

No

Yes

Yes

Although that deflection was somewhat unfortunate, it seemingly epitomised his overall unconvincing display alongside Connor Goldson, as he lost possession on average once every 4.6 touches, while recording a pass accuracy of just 77%.

As journalist Josh Bunting suggested, it is “absolutely ridiculous” that both the £2.7m-rated man – and teammate Scott Wright – have gone from being previously peripheral figures last season to first-choice regulars under Van Bronckhorst this term, with their lack of quality perhaps beginning to show.

The American’s struggles were also laid bare in contrast to the unerringly composed display of former Ibrox colossus Calvin Bassey for the opposition, with the Nigeria international notably losing possession just five times from his rather remarkable haul of 150 touches, while so often popping up in different positions across the pitch as a sign of his side’s dominance.

That performance from the one-time Leicester City man – who left the Scottish Premiership side for a club-record fee of £23m earlier this summer – has only served to heighten the void that he left behind with the Gers, with Sands seemingly not the solution in that left centre-back berth.

On what was a chastening night for all concerned, the latter man was particularly eye-catching for all the wrong reasons.

Article title: Rangers: James Sands the villain in Champions League embarrassment

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