Big-spending English giants Manchester City, Liverpool and Rangers crashed out of the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League today to end Britain's interest in the competition.
Roberto Mancini's City side, bank-rolled from Abu Dhabi by Sheikh Mansour's £500 million investment, beat Dynamo Kiev 1-0 at Eastlands but bowed out 2-1 on aggregate. At Anfield a lacklustre Liverpool eked out a goalless draw with Sporting Braga to put the plucky Portuguese side through 1-0 on aggregate.
Scottish giants Rangers, the finalists of the then UEFA Cup in 2008, had been in a strong position after coming away from their first leg at PSV Eindhoven with a scoreless stalemate. But a 13th minute goal from Jermain Lens meant it was the Dutch visitors rather than Rangers whose name went into Friday's draw.
Joining PSV, Dynamo and Braga in the last eight were Benfica, FC Twente, Spartak Moscow, FC Porto and Villarreal.
In Manchester, City were cut to ten men in the 37th minute after Italian Mario Balotelli was shown a straight red for a high one-footed lunge at Goran Popov in a bad-tempered clash that also saw seven yellow cards brandished. But the home side rebounded immediately after Balotelli's rash challenge through Aleksandar Kolarov, the Serb scoring from an indirect free-kick through a congested area.
Mancini acknowledged it was a disappointing result. "We deserved another goal tonight. We played a fantastic game with only ten players," he said. "I didn't see the foul properly but I am very disappointed because in a game like this it is very difficult if you pick up a red card, and you can pick up a red card for doing something stupid.
"The problem for Mario is that he thinks he could be a fantastic player," the coach went on. "But when he does something stupid like that, it is difficult for me, difficult for him and difficult for the team." City defender Vincent Kompany added: "As soon as we went down to ten men it became a very difficult game. We gave up a lot of energy in this game. I thought we played well."
Over at Anfield, Liverpool striker Andy Carroll made his first start since his £35 million move from Newcastle in January. But Kenny Dalglish's men failed to find their spark against Braga who progress to the last eight of a European competition for the first time in their history. Liverpool's sorry tally of only one goal in their last five Europa run-outs ultimately proved decisive.
Scottish giants Rangers went out after a performance devoid of much attacking spark saw them lose out 1-0 to PSV Eindhoven at Ibrox. PSV qualified when catching Rangers on the break, with Lens sliding home Balazs Dzsudzsak's cross from the left.
PSG went out 3-2 to Portugal's Benfica after the two teams finished 1-1 on the night. Nicolas Gaitan bagged that all-important away goal for the Lisbon-based club in the 27th minute, an ambitious left-footed shot swerving past the static Apoula Edel in goal. PSG responded eight minutes later, Mathieu Bodmer sending in a screamer of a right-foot volley into the corner of the net, but the Portuguese side held out.
In Moscow, Spartak wrapped up a comprehensive 4-0 aggregate victory over toothless Ajax, the Russians winning 3-0 on the night courtesy of goals from Dmitri Kombarov, and Brazilian duo Welliton and Alex.
There was no such luck for Spartak's domestic rivals Zenit St-Petersburg, whose 2-0 defeat of Dutch side FC Twente was not enough to overhaul a first-leg 3-0 deficit. And another Russian club, CSKA Moscow, lost 2-1 at FC Porto to go out 3-1 on aggregate, while Villarreal beat Bayer Leverkusen by the same scoreline to qualify 5-3 over the two legs.