Big-spending English giants Manchester City, Liverpool and Scotland’s Rangers crashed out of the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday to end Britain’s interest in the competition.
Roberto Mancini’s City side, bank-rolled from Abu Dhabi by Sheikh Mansour’s millions, beat Dynamo Kiev 1-0 at Eastlands, but bowed out 2-1 on aggregate.
At Anfield, a lackluster Liverpool eked out a goalless draw with Sporting Braga to put the plucky Portuguese side through 1-0 on aggregate.
Scottish giants Rangers, the finalists of the then-UEFA Cup in 2008, had been in a strong position after coming away from their first leg at PSV Eindhoven with a scoreless stalemate, but a 13th-minute goal from Jermain Lens meant it was the visitors from the Netherlands rather than Rangers whose name went into yesterday’s draw.
Joining PSV, Dynamo and Braga in the last eight were Benfica, Twente, Spartak Moscow, Porto and Villarreal.
In Manchester, City were cut to 10 men in the 37th minute after Mario Balotelli was shown a straight red for a dreadful, high one-footed lunge at Goran Popov in a bad-tempered clash that also saw seven yellow cards brandished, but the home side rebounded immediately after Balotelli’s rash challenge through Aleksandar Kolarov, the Serb scoring from an indirect free-kick through a congested area.
Mancini acknowledged it was a “disappointing result.”
“We deserved another goal tonight. We played a fantastic game with only 10 players,” Mancini said. “I didn’t see the foul properly, but I am very disappointed because in a game like this it is very difficult if you pick up a red card, and you can pick up a red card for doing something stupid. The problem for Mario is that he thinks he could be a fantastic player, but when he does something stupid like that, it is difficult for me, difficult for him and difficult for the team.”
City defender Vincent Kompany said: “As soon as we went down to 10 men it became a very difficult game. We gave up a lot of energy in this game. I thought we played well.”
Over at Anfield, Liverpool striker Andy Carroll made his first start since his ￡35 million (US$57 million) move from Newcastle United in January, but Kenny Dalglish’s men failed to find their spark against Braga, who were progressing to the last eight of a European competition for the first time in their history.
Liverpool’s sorry tally of only one goal in their last five Europa run-outs ultimately cost them dear.
Rangers were left to rue a poor refereeing decision.
A blatant handball was missed when Atiba Hutchinson clearly handled Maurice Edu’s shot on the line. PSV qualified by catching Rangers on the break, with Lens sliding home Balazs Dzsudzsak’s cross from the left.
Paris Saint-Germain went out 3-2 to Portugual’s Benfica after the two teams finished 1-1 on the night.
Nicolas Gaitan bagged the all-important away goal for the Lisbon-based club in the 27th minute, an ambitious left-footed shot swerving past the static Apoula Edel in goal. PSG responded eight minutes later, Mathieu Bodmer sending a screamer of a right-foot volley into the corner of the net, but the Portuguese side held out.
In Moscow, Spartak wrapped up a comprehensive 4-0 aggregate victory over toothless Ajax, the Russians winning 3-0 on the night courtesy of goals from Dmitri Kombarov, and Brazilian duo Welliton and Alex.
There was no such luck for Spartak’s domestic rivals Zenit St Petersburg, whose 2-0 defeat of Dutch side Twente was not enough to overhaul a first-leg 3-0 deficit.
Another Russian club, CSKA Moscow, lost 2-1 at Porto to go out 3-1 on aggregate, while Villarreal beat Bayer Leverkusen by the same scoreline to qualify 5-3 over the two legs.
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