THE challenge ultimately proved beyond Rangers. It is one they will be better for, though, after their UEFA Youth League campaign came to a premature and disappointing end.

Atletico Madrid will feel that the four-goal margin of victory was deserved given the skill that they possess and the ruthlessness that they showed. It was tough to take for Rangers but the positives of the competition overall outweigh the negatives of one afternoon where the gulf in class was just too great to bridge.

The first two goals, coming just a couple of minutes into each half, took the sting out of Graeme Murty’s side. Manuel Lama Maroto headed home from close range early on, while Nacho Quintana put the game outwith Rangers’ reach just after the break.

The next two came as Murty’s side pushed for a way back into a tie that was beyond them. Mario Soriano was the scorer of the third and provider for the fourth as Alberto Maldonado rounded off an accomplished performance from the Spaniards.

Young Boys and Slovan Bratislava had been overcome to ensure Rangers reached this stage of the competition but there will be no place in the knockout draw on Friday. The experience in recent months has been invaluable for Murty and his players.

“I thought the scoreline at the end, the four goals came from us chasing the game because we were desperate to get back in it and a bit of naivety from our young players left us too open against a team that are very ruthless and very good in their method of play,” Murty said.

“I thought they were very slick, very professional and some of their players were individually outstanding. It is a fantastic lesson for our young players. That is the level we aspire to be at, that is how we have to go and operate.

“I thought their work off the ball in particular was of a very high standard and that is what we have got to match ourselves against. We have got a group of young players that are down and disappointed and rightly so.

“But they have to learn from this, make sure that they understand the reasons why and not get caught up too much in the emotion of what happened.

“It (the Youth League) is phenomenal for young players, we were desperate to be in it and we were fortunate to be in it because our Under-18s were outstanding last year and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

“I enjoyed pitching our players against some of the best players in Europe and the learning they would have got from this is absolutely invaluable. To play against a team like that, to see how they operate, to see the ruthlessness and clinical nature of top, top players was great for us.”

Rangers would compete well in spells, but they lacked composure for large stages and the handful of chances they did carve out went unconverted. This wasn’t Murty’s side at their best and Atletico didn’t need an invitation to capitalise.

In Rodrigo Riquelme, the visitors had a forward that has already made his La Liga debut and he would shine brightly in difficult conditions. Rangers were able to admire the Spaniard, but can also take inspiration from him.

Murty said: “Let’s be candid, we get lots of success in Scotland and we can afford to be profligate with our chances and a little bit slack and we keep reiterating to our players that you need to push, you need to extend, need to make sure that we are slick.

“We came up against an outfit that were slick and in their basic and fundamental core skills they were excellent. They looked excellent and fundamentally they were sound. But their core of passing the ball, dealing with the ball and the understanding of their method was outstanding.

“When we got a little slack, pushed the tempo or turned the ball over through lack of quality, at times, we got punished. We can’t buy that kind of lesson from our players and we can’t stress enough how valuable it is for our guys to look at that standard and not be worried about it, not be fearful of it, but be inspired by it to come and play against these guys every year.”