Everton fly the flag as English clubs stumble
Liverpool and Tottenham are out of Europe, while Arsenal and Man City hang on by a thread
It hasn't been a good week for the English in Europe. Manchester City beaten at home by Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday, Arsenal humiliated in the same competition 24 hours later by Monaco, and then Liverpool and Tottenham dumped out of the Europa League on Thursday.
Admittedly Everton made it through to the last 16 of the Europa League but then they were playing a side called Young Boys, barely a force in Switzerland let alone Europe.What with Celtic's 1-0 defeat to Inter Milan also, Everton are Britain's sole representatives in the Europa League following their 7-2 aggregate romp, a sorry reflection on the state of the British game. Given that Arsenal and Manchester City are unlikely to turn their ties around in the second leg next month, and the possibility that Chelsea's erratic form of late might see them lose at home to Paris Saint-Germain, and it could be that the Toffees are soon Britain's only hope of European glory this seasonIn truth, the Spurs result wasn't that great a surprise. It was the Lilywhites' 44th game of the season and on Sunday they play Chelsea at Wembley in the League Cup Final. Bigger fish to fry, etc, which is why manager Mauricio Pochettino rested star striker Harry Kane as well as midfielder Ryan Mason. Other than that it was a strong Spurs line-up but when Roberto Soldado wasted a glorious opportunity in the first-half to put the visitors ahead, one sensed it wasn't going to be their night. Fiorentina, who drew 1-1 at White Hart Lane the previous week, got the breakthrough on 54 minutes when Mario Gomez fired past Hugo Lloris. Fifteen minutes later Mohamed Salah – on loan from Chelsea – made it 2-0 and took the tie out of Tottenham's reach. "All players are disappointed, but now we need to look forwards, to recover quickly, because on Sunday we have another game," said Pochettino."Disappointed" was also the word used by Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers after his side's exit at the hands of Besiktas. The Reds had travelled to Turkey to defend their slender 1-0 lead from the first leg last week but it was a lacklustre performance from the English club, who dominated the first-half without really threatening to get the all-important away goal. Then, 18 minutes from full-time, Tolgay Arslan curled the ball into the Liverpool net to take the tie to extra time. When the additional 30 minutes failed to find a winner, the match went to penalties. The first nine spot kicks were all sweetly struck but the tenth, taken by Liverpool centre-back Dejan Lovren, sailed high and wide, and with it went the Reds' hopes of winning some European silverware this season. "I am proud of the team," said Rodgers, "but we are disappointed having put so much into the game."Celtic were always the underdogs in their clash with Inter Milan following the 3-3 result in the first leg at Glasgow last week, and when Virgil van Dijk was dismissed in the first-half the Scots needed nothing less than a miracle to progress. It never happened, however, and a stunning late strike from Fredy Guarin saw the Italians into the last 16.
Celtic boss Roony Delia was left feeling like so many British managers in Europe this season – "disappointed". He added: "It gives us motivation to get back on this stage. We have to use that domestically so we can get back in to Europe, and hopefully the Champions League."