Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Unprecedented scenes at Lille Match

A disputed goal and a controversial no-goal preceded a near walk-off in a hot-tempered Champions League match on Tuesday.

Manchester United got the better call both times the ball went into the net, leaving the English team with a 1-0 win over Lille in the first leg of the second-round match, which was also marred by fan trouble.

Ryan Giggs scored the winning goal for United in the 83rd minute of the match, which was played in Lens because Lille's stadium does not meet UEFA standards.

Giggs apparently took his free kick before the referee blew his whistle. Following a foul on substitute Louis Saha, Giggs looked at the referee and then quickly curled his shot over the wall, leaving Lille goalkeeper Tony Sylva stranded as the ball sailed into the top corner.

That prompted a Lille coach to gesture to the players to leave the field. Angry Man United players also rushed to sidelines, but there was little trouble and the match soon resumed.

"When the goalkeeper asks to place his wall, you should wait for the referee's whistle," Lille captain Gregory Tafforeau said. "There was no whistle at all and the player shot directly ... the result is (a) goal."

Ferguson angry

United coach Alex Ferguson was also angry, but he was mad at the Lille staff and urged UEFA to take action because he felt they may have acted inappropriately.

"I've never seen that. It was complete intimidation of the referee," Ferguson said. "UEFA have got to do something. The Lille coaching staff intimidated the referee and it created a hostile atmosphere."

Lille coach Claude Puel also complained that he was unable to get his substitutes on the field because the free kick was taken too quickly.

"It's incomprehensible. We wanted to place the reserves," Puel said. "Of course, the referee didn't want to."

Earlier in the match, Lille striker Peter Odemwingie had his 63rd-minute goal voided because of a push. The Nigeria forward headed in a cross from the left, but the referee disallowed the goal because of an apparent push on United defender Nemanja Vidic.

"The defender is beaten, he's touched a bit and plays for the foul," Puel said. "We played a great second half and shook up this great team. We had the better chances. I'm proud of my players. They showed we're not here by chance."

Riot police in action

Police fired tear gas into a section of the crowd early in the game and some Man United fans were pushed against a high metal security safety barrier. Although several fans were helped over the barrier, there were no reports of any serious injuries.

In the 15th minute, United supporters shook the high metal fence while a large gate was partially pushed open before being slammed shut again. After riot police arrived and fired tear gas, security officials helped at least two supporters to safety on the field.

Television reports suggested gates in the rear of the seating section had been opened by police to allow English fans with tickets to sit with other United supporters.

Wayne Rooney and Henrik Larsson both had earlier chances for United, while Mathieu Bodmer forced a point-blank save from United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.

United played better early and Paul Scholes found Rooney with his back to goal in the 19th minute. The striker's perfect touch took him around his defender but he shot high.

In the 42nd, Giggs found Rooney inside the area, but his cross was palmed away by Sylva. Cristiano Ronaldo collected the rebound but couldn't score.

Lille responded and Bodmer collected a pass from Odemwingie on the edge of the penalty area and his low shot crept past the post with Van der Sar beaten.

In the 51st, Rooney dribbled past two defenders but was too far out to shoot, so he chipped the ball back to the far post where Ronaldo arrived too late to be able to slide it in.

Ronaldo had another chance two minutes later when he broke free in the area, but Sylva held his ground and made the save.

In the 57th, Van der Sar made a superb stop to deny Bodmer after he collected a flick from Odemwingie.


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