Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I think we set a great standard and a great example this season for English football for the way that we approached this competition. I would like to compliment the players because changing the mentality towards the competition is difficult. They played like heroes. It has never been an excuse for the way we’ve played in the Premier League but I think it has changed the way some other English clubs have approached and played the competition. I’m proud of the players. We’re extremely disappointed but it’s a great honour to have managed the players in this competition the way we did. We had such great ambitions and we tried to go for it but when we lost Jan, it didn’t go our way.” – Andre Villas-Boas.
Runner-up: “It’s always good to have players arguing about things that happen on the pitch, so you can correct these things at half-time. We were talking about that, adjusting positions, so it’s fine.” – Rafa Benitez.
Tottenham lose to Basel on penalties
He’s Ad a mare (Paul Jiggins, Sun) Emmanuel Adebayor ended Tottenham’s Europa League dream last night. The sloppy striker casually hoofed his penalty over the bar as the Swiss beat 10-man Spurs in a shootout.
Spurs’ penalty hoodoo costs them a place in semi-finals (Tom Collomosse, Independent) Missed efforts from Tom Huddlestone and Emmanuel Adebayor saw Basel progress to the last four after two goals from Clint Dempsey – the second eight minutes from the end of normal time – raised hopes of a first European semi-final appearance since they won this competition courtesy of a shootout victory over Feyenoord in 1984. But while Basel were successful with all four of their attempts, Huddlestone’s miss and then Adebayor’s skied effort ensured that Tottenham have now lost their last seven shoot-outs in all competitions – a disastrous run that now stretches back nearly 20 years. Afterwards, Villas-Boas expressed his disappointment at going out of a competition that has seen his side play 12 matches to reach this stage but was full of praise for their efforts.
Newcastle bow out the Europa League
Newcastle United’s depleted side fall tantalisingly shy of their goal (Louise Taylor, Guardian) Newcastle United are nearly a very good team. Nearly but not quite. For Alan Pardew’s players, the gap between thrilling potential and sometimes frustrating reality is tantalisingly small and at times they seemed within touching distance of taking Benfica to extra time in their Europa League quarter-final second leg. A raft of injuries hardly helped. No Cheik Tioté, no Steven Taylor, no Davide Santon, no Fabricio Coloccini made for a weakened home starting XI, especially as Mathieu Debuchy and Yoan Gouffran were also ineligible. Such absentees could only dilute the side’s technical ability and athleticism, pace and clever counter-attacking power that has made this an ensemble no opponent can afford to underestimate. The shame for Newcastle fans was that Hatem Ben Arfa’s return from a long-term hamstring injury restricted him to a second-half cameo appearance. Brief it may have been but it threatened to turn the tie Pardew’s way, Ben Arfa helping to create Papiss Cissé’s goal and directing one decent chance of his own agonisingly over the bar.
Alan Pardew sets Newcastle United target of top-10 finish following Europa League exit to Benfica (Daily Telegraph) Pardew’s men have little time to dust themselves down ahead of Sunday’s derby clash with arch-rivals Sunderland, but the manager is hoping victory in that fixture can provide the platform for his team to ease themselves into the top half of the table by the end of a trying campaign. He said: “Our next target after going out tonight is to try to secure a top-10 finish if we can. “With all the injuries we have had and the credible performance we have put in in Europe, I would have to take that as a real learning curve for us in terms of the injuries we have sustained. “The next time we go into Europe, we need to be better prepared than we were at the start of this season. “You have to put into context what we are. The financial restrictions we have are so much greater than the top clubs in this country. “But that doesn’t mean to say we can’t win something and we are going to try to achieve that and overachieve like we did last year.
The Luiz-Lampard fight
Rafael Benitez happy for rows to rumble after tunnel spat between Frank Lampard and David Luiz (Daily Telegraph) Frank Lampard and David Luiz had a heated exchange while leaving the Luzhniki Stadium pitch at half-time, when Chelsea led through Fernando Torres’ fourth-minute strike. The second half was fraught for the Blues as Ivan Marcano and Gokdeniz Karadeniz scored headers either side of Victor Moses’ curled effort and Bebras Natcho netted a 75th-minute penalty to set-up an anxious conclusion, which ended in a 3-2 win for Rubin, but a 5-4 aggregate success for Chelsea. “It’s always good to have players arguing about things that can happen on the pitch,” Benitez said.
Liverpool challenge Arsenal for Ashley Williams
Liverpool hopeful of landing ‘fan’ Ashley Williams.. despite Arsenal’s £9m bid on the table (David Maddock, Daily Mirror) Liverpool have stolen an important march in the race to land Ashley Williams… despite Arsenal leaving a £9million bid on the table since the turn of the year. The Gunners made a determined effort to sign the Wales international defender right up until the end of the January transfer window, but their cash offer was turned down flat by Swansea. Williams though, now looks certain to be made available in the summer, with boss Michael Laudrup recognising the stalwart’s sterling efforts on behalf of the Welsh club by giving him the chance to move to a big club before it is too late. That is why Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has left his offer open to Swansea, with the intention of returning in the summer to renew his interest in a centre half he rates amongst the best in the Premier League. Williams though, is actually a massive Liverpool fan who idolised John Barnes when he was a kid first dreaming of a career in football.
United chase Belgian teen
Man United prepare offer for £3.5m-rated Belgian teen sensation Henen (Simon Jones, Daily Mail) Manchester United are reviving their interest in Anderlecht’s David Henen, 16. Club scouts watched him score two and set up two as Anderlecht Under 19s beat Lokeren 5-1 on Tuesday.
Ian Wright urges Wenger to splash the cash
Splashing the cash is the Wright thing to do (Ian Wright, Sun) I’m delighted as my only argument with Arsenal has been we’ve not replenished the squad with the kind of quality players required to challenge for the Premier League. I get a lot of people on Twitter saying that I’m constantly slating the club, but I don’t do that. However, I won’t sit by when I know what is expected in terms of winning something. You expect to win something at that club — the fans do, the players should do — and I think we’ve lost sight of that in the last eight years. We’ve had a manager who has been great for us and now he’s finally realised that in order to compete, he has to spend the money. Now that Wenger has said he wants to buy big, I wouldn’t want anyone else rather than him doing it.”