Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lyon 1 United 1

Carlos Tevez stepped off the bench to grab a late equaliser for Manchester United in their Champions League first leg match with Lyon in France.
Tevez ghosted in at the far post after Karim Benzema had opened the scoring for the French champions with a superb individual effort.

But the Argentinian's 87th-minute goal will give United confidence going into the return leg at Old Trafford in two weeks, as they seek to reach the quarter-finals of the competition they won in 1999.

Ryan Giggs returned to the United side to make his 100th Champions League appearance - and was named captain after being rested for Saturday's FA Cup victory was against Arsenal.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Owen Hargreaves and Paul Scholes were also back in the starting line-up against a Lyon team who have won the French title six seasons in a row.

Wayne Rooney was employed as the solitary striker, with Tevez starting the game as one of the substitutes.

Lyon carved out a half chance in the third minute when Fabio Grosso lifted a cross from the left - however, United central defender Rio Ferdinand stood tall and made a timely clearance.

Play immediately switched down the other end and Ronaldo, fit again after a stomach virus, tried his luck from the edge of the area.

He was out of luck, although Swedish international Kim Kallstrom midfielder was happy to concede a corner.

Ferdinand then threaded the ball to Ronaldo after 13 minutes but the Portugal international winger was crowded out.

Lyon were looking lively and Brazilian playmaker Juninho swung in a free-kick after 18 minutes, only for Ferdinand to head clear.

Juninho then tried an ambitious free-kick from distance two minutes later - but Edwin van der Sar was able to make a comfortable save.

There was a scare for United in the 24th minute when Ferdinand sliced a cross from Jeremy Toulalan but the ball went wide of the post.

Rooney, however, almost made the breakthrough a minute later after being released by Giggs but Gregory Coupet in the Lyon goal made a superb parry.

The French outfit broke back immediately, and the highly-rated Karim Benzema suddenly sprung into action in the 26th minute, cleverly making space for himself in the area but watching in frustration as the shot went over the bar.

United were playing at their own pace at the Stade Gerland, but a minute later Giggs picked out Scholes - although the midfielder's effort was blocked.

There was not much tempo to United's game, and they seemed to be playing well within themselves.

They were content to hit Lyon on the counter-attack, with Rooney putting in a hard shift up front on his own.

Hargreaves was then booked in the 40th minute after a challenge on Govou which angered the French bench.

As the half was coming to an end, United carved out a couple of half-chances.

Ronaldo saw his free-kick from distance punched away by Coupet before United won a corner on the right.

Giggs swung the ball in, but Ronaldo failed to test the goalkeeper and headed over the bar.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson decided to keep things as they were at the start of the second half.

However, it was Lyon who made the breakthrough in the 54th minute with a marvellous piece of skill from Benzema.

The 20-year-old striker had his back to goal when Toulalan played the ball through - and there seemed little on.

But Benzema turned quickly and got between Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic before steering a shot into the corner off a post, giving Van der Sar no chance.

It was Benzema's fourth goal in six Champions League appearances, and was a sweet moment for the player.

Benzema's mature performances have been noted beyond France, and it is easy to see why.

Ferguson himself was present at this ground to witness an impressive goalscoring display against Sochaux on February 9.

United were stung, and Ronaldo tried to pick out Rooney with a cross in the 61st minute - but Lyon goalkeeper Coupet stayed alert and made a timely interception.

Ferguson brought on Nani and Tevez four minutes later with Giggs - who had made little impact - and Scholes making way.

United found themselves on the back foot again in the 66th minute when Francois Clerc cut into the area - but Van der Sar got down quickly to make the save.

Juninho cracked a free-kick wide but with Nani and Tevez on board United had more attacking options.

And - after Ronaldo and Michael Carrick had gone close - they got their equaliser when Tevez lost his marker and ghosted in at the far post to send his effort beyond Coupet, after the ball had fortuitously broken to him off Fred.

Ronaldo dazzler

Cristiano Ronaldo was dazzled by a laser beam before Manchester United's 1-1 Champions League draw at Lyon tonight.
The incident occurred in the warm-up to the last 16 first leg in France and United have reported the matter to UEFA.

Manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: 'We reported the matter to UEFA before the game.

'We noticed it in the warm-up and they (UEFA) are aware of it.'

Ronaldo showed no ill effects during the match, with United storming back to grab the equaliser three minutes from time through substitute Carlos Tevez.

The goal came about after a cross from Nani cannoned off a defender's leg and broke to Tevez, who made no mistake at the back post.

It was just what United were looking for after 20-year-old striker Karim Benzema had opened the scoring in the 54th minute with a superb individual strike.

Ferguson was pleased with the way his team rallied and they will approach leg at Old Trafford in two weeks with confidence.

Ferguson said: 'It was a setback to go behind but it was a fantastic goal and it made life difficult for us.

'But with attacking options we had on the bench and being 1-0 down, we were always going to make changes.

'Tevez and Nani have improved their chances with us after their performances.

'We are delighted to get a draw. You're never sure a goal is going to come but we managed to get one late on.'

Striker Wayne Rooney added: 'It is always crucial to get an away goal and 1-1 is a lot better than 1-0. It was 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 stuck the ball in.

'Lyon are a good team and we know we have to concentrate 100%.'

Ferguson believes United are in the driving seat for a place in the quarter-finals.

He said: 'This has given us a good opportunity to qualify.

'I don't think Lyon had that many clear chances. Our goalkeeper has not had a save to make and I didn't feel that threatened.'

Lyon coach Alain Perrin could not hide his disappointment after seeing his side fail to see the game out.

He said: 'I felt that 1-0 was a good score but 1-1 is a different story.

'It was a shame to concede a goal in the dying moments of the game but we showed what we are capable of and caused United problems.

'But the way things stand at the moment, we are out of the competition and it was a strange goal we conceded and we have let ourselves down.'

Giggs joins centurions

Ryan Giggs has become only the eighth player to make 100 Champions League appearances after captaining the Reds in Wednesday night’s draw with Lyon, and Sir Alex Ferguson admits everyone at United is proud of the veteran winger.

The 34-year-old was presented with a silver salver before United's last 16 clash after following 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. “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.

“Throughout his time with us, Ryan 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 started behind Giggs on United’s left side at the Stade Gerland, and the French defender admits 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 having joined Gary Neville on 98 appearances after starting against Lyon.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Fabio Capello insists his old club AC Milan face the toughest of tasks against Arsenal this week - and warns that the Gunners will be a very different proposition to the side that was humbled in the FA Cup.

The England manager says the return of Emmanuel Adebayor, Mathieu Flamini and Gael Clichy to the Arsenal starting line-up will provide a huge challenge to the Italians.

Capello was at Old Trafford at the weekend to see Arsenal beaten 4-0 by Manchester United in the FA Cup, but that result did not detract from his view of Arsene Wenger's side.

Capello said: "Since the draw I've felt that AC Milan could not have got a worse proposition than Arsenal.

"I believe that at this time Arsenal are one of the very top teams in Europe.

"They combine great quality with great speed. They will be very different from the team beaten 4-0 at Old Trafford.

"United prevented Fabregas from having any effect, a key factor for their dominance. But Adebayor, Flamini, Clichy will be back against AC Milan, for a very different Arsenal.

"We know that AC Milan can rise to the challenge in crucial matches, but this is a very difficult moment to face Arsenal.

"Arsenal defend with 10 men and attack with six. They are a very organised side, full of talented players. If you leave them any space, they counter attack with four or five at such pace that the opposition cannot figure out what's hitting them.

"AC Milan can count on their huge experience and, as I've said, they always give their best and more on such occasions. But to have a chance with Arsenal they'll have to be in top physical condition."

Capello picked out Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo as the key man for Milan, and said the return to fitness of 18-year-old Brazilian striker Pato could be crucial.

He added: "They will need their quality players in their best form, and it is vital for the likes of Kaka and Seedorf to recover in time. They will need a strong midfield to face Arsenal, Pirlo is a must. If Pato recovers in time it will be a big bonus for them."

Man Utd will face Porthmouth in Quarterfinal FA Cup

United will face Portsmouth at Old Trafford in the FA Cup sixth round.

The tie will be played on either Saturday 8 March or Sunday 9 March, with the winner booking a semi-final date at Wembley Stadium.

The last time the two sides met in the FA Cup – back in last season's fourth round – United ran out 2-1 winners.

Meanwhile, Bristol Rovers will play West Bromwich Albion and Barnsley host Chelsea. The winner of Middlesbrough and Sheffield United's fifth round replay will meet Cardiff City at home.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Bring on The Blues - Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney says he’ll be delighted if United draw Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter final.

The England international got the scoring underway at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon as the Reds romped to a 4-0 victory against top-of-the-league Arsenal.

Minnows Barnsley and Bristol City remain in the competition, but Rooney would prefer a tussle with Avram Grant’s Chelsea.

“I hope we get Chelsea,” Rooney told MUTV. “Personally, I’d like to play them at home and try to knock them out. After that we’ll be through to the semi final and I’m sure we can take things from there.”

Rooney has twice been on the losing side in an FA Cup final and is determined to add a winners medal to his collection this season.

“The FA Cup means a lot to me. I’ve been excited by the competition from a very young age and hopefully we can now go all the way.”

United swept Arsenal aside on Saturday afternoon even though the Reds began the match missing experienced players.

“Last season we had to play all the players in every game,” Rooney said. “Today we had Paul Scholes on the bench and Ryan Giggs got a rest all together. That keeps them fresh and could be key come the end of the season.

“We were very disappointed after last week’s performance against Manchester City. Training was difficult this week and we spent a lot of time talking about the tactics and how we were going to approach the game against Arsenal. I think we got it spon on.”

The FA Cup quarter final draw takes place on Monday 18 February at 13:30 GMT.