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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lyon Vs. Manchester United Result Report

A late Carlos Tevez goal levelled the scores on the night, but handed United the advantage in the Reds’ Champions League last 16 tie with Olympique Lyonnais.

Tevez fired home in the 87th minute after Karim Benzema, French football’s finest young talent, scored against the run of play early in the second half. Benzema’s goal looked to have handed Lyon a famous victory on a night that yielded few clear-cut chances but plenty of engaging football.

United travelled to Lyon on a high after a tremendous 4-0 defeat of Arsenal in the FA Cup. Despite producing one of his finest performances in that match, Darren Fletcher had to be content with a spot on the bench in Lyon, alongside Tomasz Kuszczak, Michael Carrick, John O’Shea, Nani, Louis Saha and Tevez.

Before kick-off, Sir Alex admitted some players were unlucky not to retain their spot after the FA Cup victory, but explained the need for experience when playing away from home in Europe.

Of course, nobody in the Reds’ squad can boast Ryan Giggs’ experience. It was his quick thinking that handed United a 1-0 win against Lille the last time United travelled to France (at the same stage of last season’s competition), and on Wednesday night, almost 14-and-a-half years after his Champions League debut, the Welshman joined a elite group of players who have made 100 appearances in the competition.

The Reds’ no.11 only had fleeting touches early on. The home side was happy to gift United possession, but only in deep-lying areas of the pitch; any ball played into the final third induced a strong challenge from the Lyon centre-backs.

Lyon’s early play was concentrated down the left flank, with full back Fabio Grosso keen to get forward as much as possible. It was Grosso who supplied the cross that almost led to a Lyon opener in the 7th minute. Sidney Govou was first to the ball, but his shot was blocked before Patrice Evra scrambled the loose ball to safety.

The resulting corner saw dangerman Karim Benzema ghost in at the far post but he couldn’t connect cleanly with his volley, which dribbled into Edwin van der Sar’s hands. It was only a half chance, but Sir Alex will have been looking for greater concentration at set pieces, especially given Lyon midfielder Juninho’s ability to deliver balls into dangerous areas.

United’s first real chance fell to Wayne Rooney on 25 minutes. Ryan Giggs flicked a ball through the Lyon defence, which Rooney reached just ahead of Sebastien Squillaci. His touch took him into the box where he was left with only veteran goalkeeper Gregory Coupet to beat. Coupet was equal to the task, saving low at Rooney’s feet.

Benzema then blazed over the bar at the other end before Paul Scholes – the killer ball again provided by Giggs – was denied by a last-ditch block from former Newcastle defender Jean-Alain Boumsong.

Cristiano Ronaldo was upended in the 33rd minute by a challenge that earned Anthony Reveillere a booking, which will see the 28-year-old miss the return leg at Old Trafford. Swede Kim Kallstrom followed his team-mate into referee Luis Medina Cantalejo’s notebook just three minutes later when he brought down the same player in the centre circle.

Owen Hargreaves was the first United player to see a yellow card when he fouled Govou on the edge of the box, a tackle that prompted protestations from Boumsong that were vehement enough to earn the defender a booking of his own.

Despite the cards, the game never threatened to boil over, although Juninho went in late and high on Ryan Giggs just before the interval. It was more mistimed than malicious, however, and gave Ronaldo a chance from out wide to fizz the ball across the penalty area.

Coupet fisted the ball away for a corner, which Giggs took and Ronaldo headed over after out-jumping his man. It was the first half’s last meaningful piece of action and Sir Alex will have been pleased enough with United’s opening 45 minutes. He confirmed as much to Sky Sports just before the second half kicked off, yet reiterated his desire to leave the Stade Gerland with an “all important away goal”.

It wasn’t forthcoming in the early stages of the second period, although the Reds enjoyed almost uninterrupted possession.

And so it was against the run of play that Lyon took the lead in the 54th minute. Benzema picked up the ball on the edge of the box and, despite close attention from three Reds defenders, found space to rattle a low drive in off the post and give Lyon the advantage.

It was a cruel blow for United, who had begun the half so brightly, and a timely reminder of how finely balanced Champions League football can be. The goal triggered a prompt response, as red shirts piled forward in search of an equaliser and Carlos Tevez and Nani stripped off on the touchline.

Ten minutes after Benzema’s strike, United were still a goal down. Tevez came on for Scholes, while Nani replaced Giggs on the left side of midfield as Sir Alex sacrificed experience for energy and enthusiasm.

The two substitutes were at the heart of the move that finally saw Lyon’s net bulge, although Wayne Rooney was correctly flagged offside after Tevez had headed Nani’s cross into the England striker’s path.

United huffed and puffed, but Lyon stood firm despite the Reds’ best efforts. Ronaldo drew a spectacular save from Coupet before substitute Michael Carrick saw a drive bravely blocked just yards off the line.

The French defence did eventually crack, however, and it was Carlos Tevez who found the net with just three minutes to play. Tevez, who’d looked United’s liveliest player since his 65th-minute introduction, was on hand to smash the ball into the roof of the net after Fred failed to clear Nani’s cross at the far post.

The history books will show the teams finished on equal terms, but with the Reds playing the second leg at Old Trafford, the advantage has swung well and truly in United’s favour.


United: van der Sar; Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Ronaldo, Anderson, Hargreaves (Carrick 78), Scholes (Tevez 65), Giggs (Nani 65); Rooney
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Saha, O’Shea, Fletcher
Booked: Hargreaves

Lyon: Coupet; Reveillere, Squillaci, Boumsong, Grosso; Clerc (Ben Arfa 78), Juninho (Bodmer 74), Toulalan, Govou, Kallstrom; Benzema (Fred 83)

Subs not used: Vercoutre, Cris, Delgado, Keita
Booked: Reveillere, Kallstrom, Boumsong

Rooney salutes Tevez strike

Wayne Rooney hailed strike partner Carlos Tevez after the Argentine came off the bench to fire a vital away goal in the Reds' 1-1 draw against Lyon.

Tevez entered the fray on 65 minutes and blasted the ball home three minutes from time to earn United a share of the spoils in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.

"Carlos came on and did what he does best - getting on the ball and creating chances and thankfully he took one of them," Rooney told Sky Sports.

"It's always crucial to get an away goal and 1-1 is a lot better than losing 1-0 or even 0-0. It's a crucial goal to take back to Old Trafford.

"I felt we controlled the game for most of it. They had a few chances and scored a good goal, but we showed good courage to fight back.

"Lyon are a good team and we know we have to concentrate 100 per cent to beat them at Old Trafford." Read more...

Boss praises fighting spirit

Until the referee blows for full-time, United are never beaten.

That was the message from Sir Alex Ferguson after the Reds scored another late goal in Europe to wrestle advantage away from Lyon in United’s Champions League last 16 tie.

“It was absolutely vital,” Sir Alex said of Carlos Tevez’s 87th-minute leveller. “Time and time again we rescue games or score late winners and it’s purely down to the players’ determination to do something about it.”

On this occasion, Tevez’s strike cancelled out Karim Benzema’s opener, which looked to have given the home side a valuable win ahead of the return leg at Old Trafford on Tuesday 4 March. Instead, Lyon now face an uphill battle to progress to the quarter finals.

“We showed a lot of determination to try and get back into the game,” Sir Alex told Sky Sports.

“We lost a goal out of nothing, really, but it showed the qualities of the boy Benzema. It was a marvellous strike but I thought we were in complete control at the time.

“Lyon’s goal knocked us back a bit and then they defended very well and made it difficult for us.”

Despite mounting pressure, the Reds struggled to create clear-cut chances until the United boss turned to the bench and introduced Tevez and Nani.

“I thought Nani provided a real threat for us with his pace and crossing. And of course Carlos Tevez scored a great equaliser.

“We weren’t magnificent but it was a decent performance and I think we deserved the result. When you’re away from home and 1-0 down with a few minutes to play then you count your blessings when you get back into the match.”

Of course, it’s not the first time United have scored a late goal in Europe.

“There was a real urgency from us to get back into the game and I think we’re at our best when we’re up against it,” added the Reds' manager.

“It’s now a matter of getting a good performance at Old Trafford. We have a big advantage with the away goal and I’m sure there’ll be an electric atmosphere. We’re looking forward to the return leg.” Read more...

Lyon Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clip

Lyon 1 - 1 Manchester United
54′ [1 - 0] K. Benzema
87′ [1 - 1] C.A. Tevez


Boss expects tough test

Sir Alex Ferguson is reading nothing into Lyon’s shock defeat against Le Mans last weekend, insisting that he expects a thorough examination from the Ligue 1 champions when they host United on Wednesday night.

Alain Perrin rested a host of his top players in readiness for United’s visit, and Sir Alex is well aware that his side are up against tough opposition in a side that has won their domestic league for the last six seasons.

“I’ve seen some parts of it (Lyon’s 1-0 defeat at Le Mans), just what we need for the team,” he told his pre-match press conference. “Obviously it was a disappointment for Lyon, but I saw the game last Saturday against Sochaux, and we know it’s a big match for both teams.

“It’ll be a difficult game, but I think it’s a good atmosphere and the pitch is good, so I think it will be a really good match.”

United go into Wednesday’s second round, first leg tie on the back of a thumping FA Cup win over Arsenal, but that match is dead and buried according to Sir Alex, whose sights are firmly set on posting a positive result in France.

“We haven’t discussed the Arsenal match with the players because we have a big match tomorrow,” he said. “It’s normal. We don’t look back, we look forward. Today’s the day, tomorrow’s the big day.” Read more...

Giggs joins centurions

Ryan Giggs will become only the eighth player to make 100 Champions League appearances in Wednesday night’s second round clash with Lyon, and Sir Alex Ferguson admits everyone at United is proud of the veteran winger.

The 34-year-old was rested for the Reds’ FA Cup battering of Arsenal last Saturday, and is expected to follow in the footsteps of Raul, Roberto Carlos, Paolo Maldini, David Beckham, Oliver Kahn, Luis Figo and Clarence Seedorf in passing the century mark.

“There are only a few players who will reach that milestone in European football,” admitted Sir Alex at his pre-match press conference. “It’s because of his ability, his longevity, how he prepares himself to have a good lifestyle, and obviously being at a successful club.

“For me, Ryan has been an absolute model in his time with us. Even at 34 years of age we expect big, big things of him. Obviously we don’t play him in every game, but that’s natural for someone of that age. We want to play him in the games that really, really matter to our football club, and one of them is tomorrow.

“Ryan, throughout his time with us, has always reserved his best performances for the biggest occasions. I’ve said many times about occasions at Old Trafford and the atmosphere, and the great nights we’ve had there. They could only happen because the right type of players are playing on that stage, and Ryan has produced many great moments for us. So it’s a great occasion for him, we’re all proud of him.”

Patrice Evra is likely to start behind Giggs on United’s left side at the Stade Gerland, and the French defender admits that he is delighted for his team-mate to join such an exclusive club.

“I think it is a privilege to play with Ryan Giggs,” he said. “For me I just say thanks to Giggsy because I’ve learnt a lot of things with him, he’s a great player and I’m very happy for him.”

Giggs is likely to have familiar company in the 100 club sooner rather than later, with Paul Scholes set to join Gary Neville on 98 appearances if he features against Lyon. Read more...

Rio and Vida: Keep it clean

United’s centre backs are aiming for a clean sheet in Lyon tonight, but warn it won’t be easy.

Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were both delighted with the Reds’ weekend mauling of Arsenal – not least because the Gunners failed to find the net – and hope United can carry that form into tonight’s Champions League last 16 first leg.

“We had a bad result against Manchester City and we couldn’t wait for the next game so we could put things right,” Vidic told MUTV.

“We’ve done that now – we won 4-0 in an amazing game against Arsenal. That was a nice feeling but now there’s another game to look forward to and we’d love to reproduce that form.”

Ferdinand says the United squad know all about their French opponents and won’t take anything for granted.

“We expect a tough game and they’ve got this far in the competition for a reason: they’re a very good side. The manager’s drilled us and we’re well informed about Lyon. We’ve seen bits on the television and we played them a couple of years ago.

“If we can score an away goal then we’re halfway there, as long as we don’t concede more than one or two ourselves. But our aim is to keep a clean sheet – that will really make life easier in the return leg.

“Last season we reached the semi final and were knocked out by the eventual winners. This time we want to go one or two better than that.

“But there are some big teams standing in our way – the first one’s Lyon. It’s going to be difficult but I think we have the players to achieve things in Europe this season.” Read more...

Beware the underdog

Patrice Evra insists United must ignore their status as favourites going into Wednesday night’s tricky Champions League clash with Lyon.

The reigning Ligue 1 champions have been in mixed form of late, but Evra insists they will thrive on their underdog status, just as he did as part of the Monaco side which shocked Europe by reaching the 2004 final.

“It’s a bit like Monaco’s situation against Real Madrid, when everybody was tipping them to win,” he told the pre-match press conference.

“That seriously annoyed us and we ended up beating them, so it just goes to show that you need total respect for your opponents or you could get a nasty surprise."

United are on a high after beating title rivals Arsenal in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday. By comparison, Lyon continued their inconsistent form since the turn of the year with a 1-0 defeat to Le Mans at the weekend. But Evra won't be paying too much attention to domestic results.

“Just because we put a beautiful performance in against Arsenal last weekend doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the same against Lyon," he added. "They have won their championship for the last six years on the run, they’re in the last 16 so clearly they’re a major team.

“We must show them serious respect. We don’t want to fall into the trap of not respecting them and end up struggling to qualify. But, at such a big club like United, with Sir Alex at the helm, it’s very difficult to actually lose concentration.” Read more...

United eye £30m Kar

The striker who could wreck the Champions League hopes of Manchester United will catch Sir Alex Ferguson’s eye tonight. But Fergie is adamant he hasn’t talked to French opponents Lyon about signing £30 million rated Karim Benzema. The marksman, 20, is being monitored by Europe’s top clubs, but Ferguson insists he didn’t discuss a deal with Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas when they dined together 12 days ago before watching Benzema hit his 25th goal of the season in a 4-1 win over Sochaux. United have also been linked with Lyon midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa.
George Scott, Daily Star

Lyon Vs. Manchester United Match Preview

Lyon coach Alain Perrin believes the open style of football practised by English clubs gives his side a great chance of causing an upset against Manchester United in the Champions League last 16. Perrin knows about the Premier League thanks to his short stint as manager of Portsmouth between April and November 2005.

His eight months at Fratton Park may have been seen by many as a failure - his record shows only four wins from 21 games - but they gave him an insight into life in the blood-and-thunder English top flight. And ahead of tomorrow's last-16 first leg at the Stade Gerland, Perrin is confident his team will be afforded opportunities to trouble United, who are currently in second place in the Barclays Premier League.

``We can rightly compare this to a tennis match between the second-ranked player in the world and the 15th-ranked player,'' he said. ``In 10 matches, we would lose six or seven of them. But we would win the others. ``And English football always gives an opponent the hope of succeeding. The game is less padlocked than in Italy, for example, and you get the feeling you can achieve something against them.

``But you always return to the same old axiom: there are exceptional players that make the difference. Cristiano Ronaldo is on fire at the moment, and (Wayne) Rooney is really strong.'' After being sacked by Portsmouth, Perrin had six months out of football before taking up the coaching post at Ligue 1 side Sochaux. His managerial integrity returned in the year he spent at the small Montbeliard club, who he guided into Europe after winning the Coupe de France.

He was appointed coach of Lyon, the reigning six-time French champions, last summer and Les Gones have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League and currently sit atop the Ligue 1 standings. But a 1-0 loss to Le Mans on Saturday means they are just one point above second-placed Bordeaux, and Perrin is rumoured to have had frank talks with club president Jean-Michel Aulas after the lacklustre defeat.

Perrin's credentials have also been questioned following Les Gones' sluggish start to 2008, but he does not see himself suddenly having come under pressure. ``There isn't any concern, I know the group has the necessary resources and the means to react,'' he said. ``I haven't just suddenly discovered this pressure, it is with me each match. I know about the fragility linked with football.

``And there is always this pressure at Lyon. I am hardened to it and I am strong enough mentally not to be destabilised by all this. ``Pressure comes from within. The only pressure comes from my desire to succeed.'' There is no doubt all is not right in the Lyon squad, with even Perrin admitting ``the team is drifting at the moment``. Injuries to players like entre-back Cris, goalkeeper Gregory Coupet and striker Fred has meant Perrin has often been without key performers in the spine of his team this season.

It is the closest title race in Ligue 1 for a number of years, while Lyon have the psychological barrier to climb of knowing they have never progressed beyond the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Perrin is confident his underdogs will give it a good shot against United over the two legs. ``We know we are not favourites,'' he said.

``But that is going to allow us to play with a certain calmness, in the hope of causing an upset.'' Perrin will be boosted by the return to the squad of Cris, the Brazilian ball-playing defender who has been out of action since August with a knee injury. ``It is good news for everyone,'' added Perrin, who is unlikely to play the club captain from the start. Read more...