The passports of players at Liverpool, Manchester City and Rangers can all be locked away ‘til next season as all three British sides went out at the last-16 stage of the Europa League last night.
In a fortnight that has seen three British clubs – Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – progress through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, their compatriots could not do the same in the Europa League and now have to turn their attentions to other competitions in the hope of silverware this year, or in the case of Liverpool, wait until next season for the chance to win a trophy.
We start off at Eastlands were Manchester City faced a strong Dynamo Kiev side with a 2-0 advantage from the first-leg. City boss Roberto Mancini put out a strong side that included the likes of Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and David Silva and the Blues looked dangerous against a Kiev team that had clearly come to Manchester with a game plan to sit back and protect their two goal aggregate lead. It was certainly going to be a tough ask for City to progress in the competition and their task was made even more difficult when fiery Italian striker Mario Balotelli was sent off for a challenge on Kiev defender Goran Popov, a challenge that made the tackle made by his City team-mate Nigel De Jong in the World Cup Final look like child’s play. Although Balotelli’s athleticism to raise his foot to such a height was impressive, it was a horrendous tackle and the Macedonian Popov was lucky not to be seriously injured.
Manchester City's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates his
goal against Dynamo Kiev at Eastlands.
Following a short interval for the kung-fu antics, Manchester City’s dominance of the footballing kind was rewarded six minutes before half-time when Aleksandar Kolarov fired in a low drive past the unsighted Oleksandr Shovkovskiy, a goal which give Mancini’s men a glimmer of hope at the break despite the prospect of having to play the entirety of the second half with just ten men. City continued to press after the restart and with twenty minutes to go brought on Edin Dzeko and Adam Johnson in the hope of taking the tie to extra time, but in the end Kiev’s one man advantage paid dividends and their one goal advantage was enough to see them progress to the quarter-finals. No doubt City fans will be wondering what would have happened if Balotelli would have kept his feet on the ground and the Blues played the entire game with their full contingent of eleven players, but unfortunately their previously impressive Europa League run is behind them and they will now have to turn their attentions to the FA Cup semi-final against inter-city rivals United to realistically keep this season’s dream of silverware alive.
Andy Carroll made his first start for
Liverpool against Braga.
A 0-0 draw at Anfield was enough to see Portuguese side Braga through to the quarter-finals after a 1-0 aggregate win over Liverpool. Reds boss Kenny Dalglish blamed his side’s lack of creativity as they struggled to break down a well organised Braga outfit. Dalglish commented after the game “you need to be really strong creatively if you are going to break down a very organised side” and a Liverpool team without injured captain Steven Gerrard and the ineligible Luis Suarez looked lacklustre in attack. Although the game saw Andy Carroll make his first start in a Red’s shirt, the big striker looked short of match fitness and Dalglish will know his side will have to perform much better in order to qualify for the Europa League next season.Rangers, the last remaining Scottish team in Europe, lost 1-0 at home to PSV Eindhoven in front of over 35,000 fans at Ibrox. A 13th minute goal from Jeremain Lens was enough to see the Dutch side through to the quarter-finals in a game of poor quality that only managed four shots on target. The Glasgow side had a second half penalty appeal turned down after the referee – and amazingly the extra official behind the goal – failed to spot a hand ball on the goal line by Canadian international Atiba Hutchinson following a shot by Rangers midfielder Maurice Edu, but in the end it was PSV’s dominance over the two legs that sees them deservedly progress in the competition.