RANGERS have been knocked out of the UEFA Youth League after a 4-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid at Firhill.

Graeme Murty’s side had set their sights on the knockout round draw on Friday as they looked to join the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Juventus in the next stage.

But Madrid proved too good for the Light Blues kids as their European run came to an end on an afternoon that will be a harsh lesson, but hopefully a beneficial one in the long-term.

Sporting Director Ross Wilson and former Ibrox heroes Gordon Smith and Mark Hateley were amongst the crowd of around 1,000. Rangers couldn’t produce a result to match the occasion, however, as Atletico’s class shone through at the crucial moments.

The Gers had seen off Young Boys and Slovan Bratislava in their first two fixtures of this competition but this was certainly their toughest test to date. The likes of Nathan Patterson, Dapo Mebude and Kai Kennedy may have already had a taste of first team action, but this was a step up from what they have faced week in week out domestically.

The Gers would more than hold their own in the first half, though, as they competed well in tricky underfoot conditions at Firhill. The snow and rain that greeted the players during the warm-up thankfully blew over, but the park quickly began to show scars on a bitterly cold afternoon.

Atletico showed no signs of being daunted by a typically Scottish occasion, however. The visitors were ahead after just five minutes and it was they who looked more dangerous in the final third throughout the first period.

Rangers almost opened the scoring after four minutes as a free-kick routine from James Maxwell and Kennedy gave Rhys Breen a chance from six yards. His header was saved and Atletico quickly punished the missed opportunity.

Keeper Lewis Budinauckas misjudged a corner from Rodrigo Riquelme and Manuel Maroto nodded home at the back post. It was an early setback for Rangers, yet they recovered well.

Mebude tested Jose Maria Saldana Baeza from a Patterson cross, while Breen headed just over as Rangers looked to regroup and get themselves back into the game.

This encounter was being broadcast around Europe and it was a chance for reputations to be enhanced. It was an opportunity that Riquelme – given a deserved applause when he was substituted late on - certainly made the most of.

The winger made his Atletico debut against Eibar in September and it was he that stood out here. A lovely run down the left ended with a low shot that was just wide of the far post and he looked dangerous every time he collected the ball as he proved too tricky for Rangers to handle.

Budinauckas had to save smartly from Fernando Ramirez minutes later, while a stop to deny Marc Urena was even more impressive. Cammy Palmer gave the ball away on the edge of the area and Budinauckas tipped Urena’s strike over to ensure Rangers were level at the break.

That didn’t last long, though, as another early blow was inflicted. When Atletico doubled their lead just minutes after the restart, it was a long way back for Rangers.

The finish was scrappy as Nacho Quintana bundled the ball over the line from close range but it was Riquelme that had been the creator once again. He beat Patterson and was rewarded as his cross was converted.

Murty introduced Nathan Young-Coombes in an attempt to add more attacking threat to his side. While Kennedy had looked bright, Mebude had largely been starved of service and Josh McPake hadn’t offered enough in the final third.

There was no lack of effort from the Light Blues but it was quality and composure that was needed. As the clock ticked away, so did their hopes of salvaging their Youth League dreams and Urena should have killed off the tie as he fired wide from the edge of the area.

Mario Soriano didn’t make the same mistake from a similar range and a low effort nestled in the corner of the net. With 12 minutes left, that was that for Rangers.

There was still time for one more for Atletico. Soriano was the provider this time and substitute Alberto Maldonado produced a clinical finish.

The scoreline was sore to take for Rangers. The lessons must now be learned as they refocus on domestic success in the remaining months of the campaign.