Four English teams made it to the last 16 of the Champions League and all four suffered disappointing first leg results.
Arsenal, Manchester City and reigning English champions Manchester United all suffered 2-0 defeats in varying circumstances.
Chelsea were the only English club to avoid defeat, as the Blues drew 1-1 at Turkish champions Galatasaray, despite dominating the early stages of the game.
Manchester City and Arsenal were handed two of the most difficult draws, with City facing Barcelona, while the Gunners drew European champions Bayern Munich. Both teams were very much in their respective games until silly sending-offs.
Fans can argue all they want, but Wojciech Szczesny and Martin Demichelis’ sending-offs were both the right decisions by the law of the game. Whether those laws are right or wrong does not matter a jot, they are the laws currently being enforced.
Both of the sending-offs no doubt had an effect on the respective games. They made difficult ties even tougher for the English teams and in the end both Bayern and Barcelona’s showed their class. In truth Bayern dominated the ball for the whole of the second half against Arsenal.
City had to play against Barcelona with ten men for less time than the Gunners did, but still the Citizens ended up on the wrong end of a two-goal loss.
We will never know what would have happened had both teams kept 11 men on the pitch. The games would have been closer, but both visiting European giants had the quality to win on English soil.
Arsenal and City now have a mountain to climb to progress into the quarter-finals, with second legs away at the Allianz Arena and the Nou Camp still to come. It is hard to see either English club making it into the last eight of the competition.
When Manchester United drew Greek champions Olympiakos in the Champions league last 16, a lot of Red Devils fans breathed a sigh of relief, because the Greek side are one of the lowest ranking teams still left in the competition.
However, those sighs of relief quickly changed to gasps of disbelief, as the Greek side produced a fantastic display in Athens to defeat United 2-0. United’s display was truly awful and the performance has led to further question marks over boss David Moyes ability to manage United.
The Red Devils have been producing limb displays all season, but this was arguably the worst of them all. United are still in the tie with the second leg still to come at Old Trafford.
In past years I would back United to progress in this sort of position, but the way the team are currently performing I would not be able to say with any confidence that United will make it into the last eight.
Chelsea could only draw 1-1 at Turkish champions Galatasaray, despite taking an early lead and dominating the first half. Gala equalised in the second half. The result was not a bad one for the Blues, because this tie was always a potential banana skin.
However, everybody connected with the Blues will be disappointed that the Blues did not take advantage of that first half dominance. Jose Mourinho’s team could have headed back to Stamford Bridge with a bigger lead for the second leg.
Instead the Blues headed back to London with an away goal and the best chance of any of the English sides of progressing into the quarter-finals.
Unfortunately the City and Arsenal were denied the chance of competing on an even playing field, because of poor decisions from their players.
However, I fear despite people stating that the Premier League is the best in the world that English clubs are still trailing in the wake of the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Bayern look like they are unstoppable at the moment, while Real Madrid trounced Schalke 6-1 last night in the first leg of their last 16 Champions League clash, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale scoring a brace apiece.
English clubs performance in the Champions League has been on the decline for a while now, Chelsea’s 2012 triumph aside of course.
I just hope that English club’s performances in the Champions League improve soon, or not even the most ardent Premier League supporter could say that the English top-flight is the best in the world.
How far ahead of English teams are their big European counterparts?