English champions Manchester City and rivals Arsenal both slumped to defeats in their final Champions League group matches on Tuesday leaving City without even the consolation of a Europa League spot and the Gunners failing to top their group and facing a tough Last 16 draw.
City bowed out with a passionless performance in a 1-0 defeat away to a largely second string Borussia Dortmund side, who topped the group, while City finished bottom with three points, the lowest amount recorded by an English side in the history of the group phase.
Ajax took the Europa League place despite losing 4-1 away at Real Madrid.
Manchester City were undone by Julian Schieber, who crowned his first Champions League appearance of the season to score Dortmund’s winner when he slotted home from a brilliant low cross by Polish star Jakub Blaszczykowski in the 57th minute.
It left City’s outstanding goalkeeper Joe Hart seething.
“I would love to be able to answer why we have been so poor in Europe this season but I can’t. All I know is that we have to address it.
“We have let ourselves down. We should be competing for a place in the last eight not going out like this,” said Hart.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid eased to victory over Ajax with Brazilian star Kaka’s superb effort making him the most prolific all-time Brazilian scorer (28 goals) in the UEFA Champions League edging ahead of fellow 2002 World Cup winner Rivaldo.
Real coach Jose Mourinho said that he wasn’t disappointed with their overall group campaign. “Well, we emerged from the Group of Death and there will be plenty of teams who topped their groups who will not wish to be drawn against us,” said Mourinho.
Arsenal let slip a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 away at Olympiakos, who secured a deserved Europa League place while German outfit Schalke 04’s 1-1 draw away at Montpellier ensured they edged out Arsenal for top spot. That will only increase the pressure on the English side’s previously untouchable manager Arsene Wenger with their domestic title hopes already all but over as they trail leaders Manchester United by 15 points.
Arsenal’s hopes of keeping their 1-0 lead to the end — thanks to Tomas Rosicky’s first goal since March — never looked likely as they had failed to keep a clean sheet on their five previous visits to Greece.
Sure enough, goals in the second-half by Giannis Maniatis and substitute Kostas Mitroglu ensured the hosts gained a second successive home win over their opponents, having beaten them 3-1 at the same stage last season.
Wenger took the defeat on the chin. “We had a good first half but dropped physically in the second. Many of the players are not used to that level. “We have to wait for the draw but ideally you’d want to finish first,” he said.
Relief for Ancelotti
While Wenger may be starting to feel the heat, the pressure eased a bit on Carlo Ancelotti, manager of big spending Paris Saint Germain as the French outfit beat Porto 2-1 to leapfrog them and top their group.
D Zagreb 1-1 Dynamo Kiev
Paris St Germain 2-1 Porto
Montpellier 1-1 Schalke 04
Olympiakos 2-1 Arsenal
Malaga 2-2 Anderlecht
AC Milan 0-1 Zenit St Petersburg
B Dortmund 1-0 Man City
Real Madrid 4-1 Ajax
I’d love to win World Cup again & quit: Casillas
Several of Spain’s golden generation of players will bring down the curtain on their international careers after the 2014 World Cup, veteran goalkeeper Iker Casillas said yesterday.
Casillas (31) winner of the World Cup and two European Championships, said: “A lot of us will retire from the national side after the World Cup. The younger generation will replace us. It is why winning the World Cup again would be a wonderful way to bow out.”
Casillas, though, said he had every intention of playing on with Real Madrid until his present contract finishes in 2017.