Champions League wrap: Arsenal final British club to fall at last-16 stage
Champions League wrap: Trevor Murray reflects on a poor last-16 round for the British clubs with Arsenal, Celtic & Man United all exiting
Gunners go out
Despite a very spirited performance on Wednesday night at the Allianz Arena, Arsene Wenger’s side could not avoid elimination from the Champions League at the last-16 stage for the third consecutive season. Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, the Gunners knew a 3-0 win would be sufficient, with a clean sheet absolutely vital to their slim hopes of European survival. Unfortunately, the north London club lacked cohesion and struggled to utilise possession, as Bayern scraped into the next round. Arsenal did push their German opponents close, subjecting Bayern to a nervy last five minutes. The Gunners opened the scoring through Olivier Giroud in the fourth minute as Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey combined well in the middle of the park to allow Theo Walcott attack down the right flank. The England winger produced a tremendous ball to Giroud at the far post, and the Frenchman made no mistake from close range. Arsenal had Lukasz Fabianski to thank that the Germans didn’t level as he denied Toni Kroos, Arjen Robben and Tomas Mueller on more than one occasion. It was a great performance from the Polish goalkeeper , who could push mentally-exhausted Wojciech Szczesny for a starting spot against Swansea City. With the tie entering its final few minutes, Arsenal struck again, this time through Laurent Koscielny. So, the visitors go out and will find it difficult to take much positives from their Champions League performances this season. For Wenger, it’s time to rebuild.
United felled by Real
Last Tuesday night, Manchester United crashed out of the Champions League as they fell to a 2-1 defeat (3-2 on aggregate) by Real Madrid. A dramatic red card for Nani just before the hour-mark, that many deemed quite harsh, ultimately proved to be United’s undoing. Sir Alex Ferguson will feel that if the Red Devils had won this tie then his side would have had a good chance of winning the competition outright. It’s impossible to know how Ferguson’s men would have fared against the likes of Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund. United can now concentrate their efforts on finishing out their domestic campaign as league leaders, while Madrid will be looking to avoid a European showdown with rivals Barcelona over the coming few weeks. The Red Devils were the first of the British sides to crash out of the last-16 stage, and the fact that their only representatives now left in Europe – Chelsea, Newcastle and Tottenham, are playing in the Europa League – doesn’t bode well for the strength of British football at the moment.
Brave Celtic trounced by Juve
Juventus completed their dismantling of Scottish side Celtic over a week ago with two well-taken goals. The victory, on home soil, meant that the Italians advanced to the quarter final stage thanks to a 5-0 aggregate win. In truth, the Old Lady could have scored a few more goals if they had been in top gear all night, but with the match essentially already won from the first leg, they allowed themselves to relent somewhat in their play. Celtic can take heart from their never-say-die attitude as the SPL champions endeavoured to find a way past the inimitable Gianluigi Buffon. The Hoops can find solace in their fantastic campaign which suffered a minor blot with this heavy defeat. It was far from being a humiliation and far from being the heaviest in European history. Glentoran conceded eight goals against Marseille a few years back, and Italian side Roma famously lost 7-1 to United. There’s no more European action for Celtic this year, although on the basis of this campaign, they probably won’t have to wait another four years for their return.