Friday, April 19, 2024

Premier League in Europe

Four Premier League sides exited the European competitions over two days this week. The Champions League ousters were particularly disappointing. Manchester City went to penalty kicks before falling to Real Madrid after the clubs were deadlocked at a goal apiece through extra time. Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic were unable to convert their penalty tries against Real Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin and the defending champion Citizens were eliminated from this year’s competition. The penalty kicks turned against Manchester City with Silva’s miss. His strike, directed towards the center of the goal, found goalkeeper Lunin standing tall and not diving to either side. The Ukrainian goalkeeper easily collected Silva’s soft poke. Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, on loan to Real Madrid, purportedly tipped his teammate regarding Silva’s penalty taking tendency.

At least Manchester City provided some drama. Arsenal went out with barely a whimper in a 1-0 loss to Bayern Munich in Germany. This was not a great version of Bayern Munich which Arsenal faced. Manager Thomas Tuchel’s side are 16 points removed from their customary perch at the top of the Bundesliga table. Joshua Kimmich’s 63rd minute goal, however, was enough to see the Germans through to the semifinals to face Real Madrid. Arsenal generated little in attack, once again raising questions regarding the absence of a true striker. Bayern Munich has one of those in former Tottenham Hotspur star Harry Kane who perhaps took extra glee in eliminating his former Premier League rivals. In four days, Arsenal lost its standing at the top of the Premier League and was bounced from the Champions League. The Premier League exits from the Europa League were largely expected.

Liverpool’s 1-0 win at Atalanta, featuring a penalty kick from Mohamed Salah, was not enough to overcome the three-goal deficit from the first leg. West Ham, meanwhile, took a two-goal deficit into its match with Bayer Leverkusen and made things interesting for a while after Michail Antonio gave the Hammers a lead at the 13-minute mark. A second goal went wanting, however, and Leverkusen remained unbeaten across all competitions when a Jeremie Frimpong 89th minute goal secured a 1-1 draw and a place in the semifinals for the Germans.

Germany looks a lock for the additional Champions League berth which the Premier League once thought was coming to England. England trails Germany for the spot and has only Aston Villa still competing for co-efficient points. The Villans lost the second leg of their Europa Conference League quarterfinal tie with Lille 2-1 but prevailed in penalty kicks to break the aggregate deadlock and advance to the semifinals. Germany, meanwhile, has Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League semifinals and Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League semis. Arsenal and West Ham’s losses to German sides in the Champions League and Europa League, respectively, were particularly damaging to Premier League hopes of a fifth Champions League place. 

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