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Arsenal bow out in style, Malaga extend dream run

March 14, 2013

Giroud celebrates scoring a goal. -Photo by AFP

PARIS: England will have no sides in the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 1996 after Arsenal exited Wednesday despite beating last season's finalists Bayern Munich 2-0 away in their last 16, second leg.

Goals by French duo Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny were not sufficient to repair the damage done in London last month as they went out on the away goals rule, with the tie finishing 3-3 on aggregate.

Bayern Munich join Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund in the last eight draw on Friday while Arsenal must fight to finish in the top four of the Premier League, or otherwise yet another trophyless season will not even have the consolation of a Champions League place for next term.

The other match saw Spain's representation in the quarter-finals by contrast rise to three as Malaga's dream debut in the competition was prolonged with a 2-0 win over 2004 champions Porto that saw them prevail 2-1 on aggregate.

Arsenal could at least take satisfaction from a much-improved performance on their spineless display in the first leg as they inflicted Bayern's first defeat in 24 games in all competitions.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger acknowledged that the first leg had cost his side dearly but added he was proud of the way the players had battled in a match that few had given them a chance of winning.

And the Frenchman – who has come under ever more pressure this term as the trophyless run dating back to 2005 has been extended for yet another season – said he was confident his side could snatch fourth place in the Premier League.

“I am confident that we will give absolutely everything to be back in this competition next season,” said Wenger, whose team trail fourth-placed Chelsea by five points with each having 10 games to play.

“The young players showed tonight they are doing very well, so let us finish this season.”

Wenger said that the fact there were no more English clubs remaining in the competition should transmit a powerful message to the Premier League.

“It's a massive disappointment for English football, a massive wake up call,” said Wenger.

“The rest of Europe has caught back. We have to take that into consideration when we consider the future of the Premier League.”

His Bayern counterpart Jupp Heynckes, who will be replaced by Pep Guardiola next season, said that his side had been fortunate to escape after delivering a listless performance.

“We hadn't reckoned on conceding an early goal and we allowed them to get into the game,” said Heynckes, who would dearly love to leave having won the Champions League after losing on penalties to Chelsea last season.

“We didn't control the game and weren't calm. They gave us a bit of a black eye tonight.”

Malaga had Isco, with a terrific strike, and a header from veteran Roque Santa Cruz to thank for their place in the last eight, although Porto's cause was not helped by the sending off of Belgian Steven Defour early in the second-half.

“It really has been a strange year for us,” said Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini, with the Spanish club having made just as many headlines for their off-field financial problems as for their European success.

“What characterises the players is their desire to stay focused on their sporting ambitions.

“I always said that Malaga were not in the Champions League just to make up the numbers,” added the Chilean, who took Villarreal to the semi-finals in 2006.