For the first time this century, there will be no English representatives in either the Europa or Champions League quarter-finals after Everton were defeated 5-2 by Dynamo Kiev on Thursday evening to be eliminated on a 6-4 aggregate from the Europa League. This week has also witnessed the early departures of Manchester City and Arsenal from the Champions League which cannot be a good advertisement for the much-vaunted Premier League in England.
In earlier rounds of the 2014-15 UEFA club competitions, Tottenham, Liverpool and Hull City had failed to realise their ambitions of a successful European campaign and only last week, Chelsea had hoped to progress to the Champions League quarter-finals when facing Paris Saint-Germain in a Round Of 16 second leg tie at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea had claimed a 1-1 draw at the Parc des Princes yet failed to beat a PSG reduced to 10 players by the first half dismissal of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Blues failed to defend two corners with Thiago Silva netting a priceless away goal in extra-time to earn a 2-2 draw.
For this week, Manchester City and Arsenal needed to overturn 1-2 and 1-3 deficits respectively to earn further progression in the Champions League whereas Everton were required to defend a 2-1 lead against Dynamo Kiev from their first leg Europa League tie at Goodison.
Arsenal dominated their second leg game in Monaco but their 2-0 win ensured that they were eliminated on away goals much to the annoyance of manager Arsene Wenger who expressed his dissatisfaction with the away goal rule, and also claimed Monaco did not deserve to win. It was a brave show by Arsenal against a team with a reputation for sound defensive play, but that should not disguise the fact that the French Ligue 1 team clinically exposed the home defence at the Emirates.
Manchester City were perhaps fortunate in only needing to score two goals without reply at the Nou Camp after Lionel Messi had squandered a last minute penalty to ensure that Barcelona only left the Etihad Stadium with a 2-1 first leg lead. As it happened, 2-1 was sufficient as Barca outclassed City in the second leg and the 1-0 win does not reflect their superiority with goalkeeper Joe Hart saving the English team from a heavier defeat.
All English eyes then turned to Kiev on Thursday evening where a clean sheet for Everton would allow their progression to the Europa League quarter-finals at the expense of Dynamo. However, England’s remaining representatives were in charitable mood, especially in defence, and were beaten 5-2 during an evening of several unforced errors and poor marking, although Ross Barkley fired shots against the woodwork on two occasions.
There will be inquests back in England regarding the performance of Premier League teams in European competition this season, but one outcome may be that only three English representatives are allowed into the Champions League in contrast to four at the moment.
Such a development may dispel the myth that the Premier League is best quality top flight league in Europe but it could still be argued that it provides most entertainment.
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