English financial clout reaping rewards as Liverpool make it four in QFs

English financial clout reaping rewards as Liverpool make it four in QFs

AND so it’s Premier League uber alles.
Four English clubs in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and a thorough gubbing for the Bundesliga over three last-16 ties.

AP:Associated Press Liverpool have joined the other three Premier League clubs in the Champions League round of 8
The Germans often refer to ‘stupid English money’ as our filthy-rich clubs pillage their teams, often paying well over the odds in doing so.
But now, after years of punching below their weight in European competition, the financial clout of England’s top flight is beginning to reap rewards.
The great Bavarian juggernaut of Bayern Munich are an exception to all that rich man, poor man stuff, of course.
And so Liverpool’s victory here was as good as any of those excellent results achieved by the Premier League’s finest over these first knock-out contests.
We have had Manchester City hammering Schalke 10-2 on aggregate, Tottenham trouncing Borussia Dortmund 4-0, and now this.
Throw in Manchester United’s miraculous comeback effort in Paris — going from 2-0 down to winning on away goals — and it’s been a scarcely believable month.

AFP or licensors The Reds defeated Bayern Munich, the only German financial superpower in European football

While our politicians dither and disgrace themselves, the nation’s football clubs have been responsible for the precise opposite of Brexit — extreme competence and staying very much in Europe.
Back in the days when the English cheered on rival English clubs in European competition, everyone would have been loving this.
Those days are largely gone now, with football so increasingly tribal.But this was an outstanding achievement for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Chelsea, in the 2012 final, and — weirdly — Norwich, were the only English clubs to have beaten Bayern Munich at their home before this.
Yet two goals from Sadio Mane and one from Virgil van Dijk — the two Liverpool players who have emerged as truly world class this season — means they are also through to the quarter-finals in style.

PA:Press Association While politicians in the House of Commons continue to disgrace themselves, English clubs do the opposite of Brexit and stay in Europe, advancing to the Champions League QF

Perhaps two all-English ties in the last eight will help in the event of Brexit.
No one is currently sure about travelling to Europe after March 29.
The supremely competitive nature of the big six in recent seasons has seemingly inspired them to higher levels than before.
It is a feat which Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore will enjoy going out on, should they ever find anyone to replace him.
No English club has won the big one since Chelsea, in this very stadium, but the Premier League boasts half the quarter-finalists.
And while Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi remain, the rest of the field feels more open than usual.
The high tide of English dominance of this competition had been a decade ago — the 2008 final contested between Manchester United and Chelsea.

PA:Empics Sport The last time English football was so dominant in Europe was in 2008, when Manchester United beat Chelsea in the Champions League final

Then the following year, the Premier League last boasted four quarter- finalists and three of the four semi- finalists, although Barcelona won the thing.
But England went five seasons without supplying a single finalist until Klopp’s men went on their joyous goal-laden rampage across the continent last term.
This year’s Liverpool have been a very different animal.
Their domestic title challenge has been built on a solid and stubborn defence and their European away form had been dismal — with three defeats out of three in the group stage.
Of course a club with Liverpool’s European pedigree were never going to jack this in, however much it might have helped their league title hopes to have had a clear run.
Instead, this victory will give them fresh momentum after a series of away draws had seen them blow their domestic lead over City.

Reuters Premier League had not produced a single Champions League finalists for five seasons before Liverpool lost to Real Madrid in the final last year

Bayern had scored nine goals in their last two Bundesliga matches, both against clubs vying for Champions League places.
After a sticky start under boss Niko Kovac, they have picked up strongly since their winter break.
Of course, this is a club which expects to win, which demands it.
Their domestic dominance has been such that they are currently heading for a seventh straight Bundesliga crown.
This magnificent stadium, built for the 2006 World Cup, so often plays host to predictable one-sided fare at the weekends.
But it pulses and throbs on big nights like this, when two of European football’s royal families collide.

Reuters Bayern scored nine goals in their last two Bundesliga games before losing to Liverpool 3-1 on Wednesday night

Yet of late, Bayern have too often come off second best.
Liverpool survived an early scare when Van Dijk was lucky not to concede a penalty for a shove on Robert Lewandowski.
Then they lost skipper Jordan Henderson to a foot injury.
But Mane, who has become every bit as crucial to Liverpool as Mo Salah of late, opened the scoring with a smart piece of opportunism after a brain fade from Manuel Neuer.
The German had been the undisputed No 1 keeper on the planet for several years but after a lengthy injury lay-off, he is no longer at that exalted level.

Reuters Sadio Mane, who scored the opening goal against Bayern, has become as crucial for Liverpool as Mo Salah
Klopp went ballistic on the touchline and, up in the nosebleed seats, Liverpool’s travelling supporters were somewhere close to cloud nine literally as well as metaphorically.
But Serge Gnabry, who had struggled to get into West Brom’s team on loan from Arsenal a few years back but had been threatening at Anfield, hauled Bayern back into the tie before half-time.
Getting behind Andy Robertson he centred towards the lurking Lewandowski, panicking Joel Matip to miscue an attempted clearance into his own net.

We might have expected a ferocious Bayern barrage after the break but there was little of the sort.
Van Dijk headed home from a James Milner corner to virtually ensure Liverpool’s passage and then Mane nodded in at the far post from a sumptuous cross from the outside of Salah’s boot.
It was a wonderful night for Liverpool.
And while they hardly consider themselves to be truly part of England, they’d capped a memorable couple of weeks for their country too.

Liverpool celebrate win at Bayern Munich as Jurgen Klopp comforts Andrew Robertson after late booking and suspension


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