Friday, May 6, 2022

Premier League in Europe

Champions League

Real Madrid shocked Manchester City with a late-stage comeback which ousted Manchester City from the Champions League. Manchester City led by a goal in the match, and by two goals in the tie, entering the 90th minute of Wednesday’s contest. Riyad Mahrez had given Manchester City a 1-0 lead in the 73rd minute and Real Madrid had yet to put a shot on goal as City appeared sure of advancing to a final with Premier League rival Liverpool. Real Madrid had different ideas. Rodrygo scored with Real Madrid’s first shot on target in the 90th minute. The Brazilian then scored again one minute into stoppage time to send the tie into extra time. Ruben Diaz then committed a penalty which Karim Benzema converted to complete the improbable Real Madrid comeback.

The collapse by Manchester City increases the frustration of supporters who have seen Manager Pep Guardiola repeatedly fail to bring home Europe’s biggest trophy despite the expenditure of billions of dollars. Manchester City substitutions did not help the cause on Wednesday. Kevin De Bruyne was removed well before the fireworks began. The necessary substitution of a fatigued Kenny Walker significantly weakened the defense. The lifting of Gabriel Jesus and Mahrez left City short of firepower once the Real Madrid comeback was underway. Real Madrid, victors over Chelsea in the prior round, now looks for a trifecta over the Premier League’s top three clubs when the Spaniards face Liverpool in the Champions League final.

Liverpool experienced its own nervous moments in a Tuesday win over Villareal. The Reds entered the second leg in Spain ahead by two goals. That advantage evaporated by halftime as Liverpool entered the locker room down 2-0 in the match versus Manager Unai Emery’s Yellow Submarine. Liverpool’s substitution of Luis Diaz for the second half seemed to ignite the attack. Fabinho scored first for Liverpool followed by a Diaz header. Sadio Mane completed the scoring as Liverpool charged back to take both the match (3-2) and tie ( 6-3) . Liverpool and Real Madrid will now meet in a rematch of their 2018 final, won by the Spanish side, which featured an early injury exit by Mohamed Salah following a tackle by Sergio Ramos. Salah had voiced a desire this week to face Real Madrid again.

Be careful what you wish for. 

Europa League

West Ham’s Europa League run ended with a 1-0 second leg defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt. The Hammers, down a goal following the tie’s first leg in London, were put on their heels when Aaron Cresswell received a red card in the 19th minute. The German club scored seven minutes later, and ten-man West Ham was unable to rally. Eintracht Frankfurt moves on to face Scottish Premier side Rangers in the Europa League final. West Ham impressed during a tournament run which saw the Londoners eliminate Sevilla and Lyon. The Hammers faced an uphill struggle throughout their tie with Eintracht Frankfurt, however, after conceding a goal in the first minute at London Stadium and then going down a man early in Germany. The Premier League side now focuses on European qualification for next year. West Ham are currently seventh in the table which would mean Europa Conference League in 2022/23. 

Europa Conference League

Leicester exited the Europa Conference League with a 1-0 loss at Roma. Former Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham bulleted home a header in the 11th minute and Roma Manager Jose Mourinho characteristically had his charges bar the doors to the Foxes for the remainder of the match. Mourinho becomes the first manager to advance to a European final with four different clubs and will be seeking a fifth European title when Roma faces Feyenoord in the final. Leicester entered the match with the clubs even at one goal apiece after the first leg in England. The Foxes fell victim to a familiar failing, however, when they concede the Abraham goal off a corner kick. Leicester is the poorest side in the Premier League at defending such kicks. The Foxes now play out their league schedule with no hopes of European play next year.

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