|Bayern Munich’s Luiz Gustavo and Arsenal’s
Olivier Giroud, in Munich, on Wednesday. (AP)
London: The self-proclaimed “best league in the world” was having a long look at itself in the mirror on Thursday after Arsenal’s exit left the Premier League with no quarter finalists in Europe’s blue riband club competition for the first time in 17 years.
Arsenal’s impressive 2-0 victory in Munich came too late to rescue the Gunners who went out on away goals after a 3-1 defeat in the home leg, leaving them on this season’s Champions League scrapheap along with Manchester United, last year’s winners Chelsea and Manchester City. While Olivier Giroud scored in the third minute, Laurent Koscielny netted in the 86th.
The Premier League hierarchy will no doubt insist it is a blip and not a clear sign of a decline in quality in the richest league in the world, but Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted it was a wake-up call.
“It’s a massive disappointment for English football,” the Frenchman said in the aftermath of Arsenal’s brave, but ultimately doomed, fightback in Bavaria.
“We accept the rest of European football has caught us. We had Manchester City and United, Chelsea and Arsenal all out by the quarter final. It’s a long time since that happened. We have to take that into consideration in the way we think about the future of the Premier League.”
Arsenal fell at the last-16 hurdle for the third consecutive season, while United were unlucky to go out against Real Madrid last week at the same stage.
Chelsea became the first holders of the Champions League to fail to survive the group stage while English champions Manchester City finished bottom of their group, an even worse showing than last season when they also failed to reach the knockout rounds.
Malaga, meanwhile, put a turbulent summer behind them to claim their place among Europe’s elite with a 2-0 win at home to 10-man Porto that put them through to the last eight 2-1 on aggregate on a memorable night for the Qatar-owned club.
Malaga playmaker Isco, the standout performer on the night, put the home side ahead with a brilliant curling effort two minutes before halftime.
Porto’s hopes were dealt a further blow four minutes after the break when midfielder Steven Defour was shown a second yellow card and sent off for a late tackle on Joaquin.
With a numerical advantage and the crowd whipping them on, Malaga probed patiently for a second and Roque Santa Cruz headed into the net from Isco’s corner in the 77th minute, moments after coming off the bench.