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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 20, 2007

Champions League: Lille facing UEFA wrath

LONDON, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Lille face the wrath of UEFA after their players threatened to walk off after conceding a goal and crowd trouble marred their Champions League first knockout round match with Manchester United on Tuesday.

United won 1-0 and joined Real Madrid, who beat Bayern Munich 3-2 and PSV Eindhoven, 1-0 winners over Arsenal, in securing slender first leg leads while AC Milan went home from Glasgow as favourites to advance after a 0-0 draw at Celtic.

New UEFA president Michel Platini on Monday had asked all 16 clubs to set an example in UEFA's premier competition after European soccer's recent hooligan problems, which included the death of a policeman at a match in Italy.

However, his words seemed to be ignored by the French club who were beaten 1-0 by a controversial Ryan Giggs freekick.

Riot police sprayed tear gas on United fans to dampen crowd trouble in the first half and, after Giggs scored what proved to be the winner for United with a quickly-taken freekick after 83 minutes, Lille's players looked set to walk off in protest.

The game soon resumed but United captain Gary Neville was then hit by missiles as he took a throw-in at the Felix-Bollaert stadium in Lens where Lille had requested to play.

United manager Alex Ferguson thought Lille's players were going to walk off the field and told reporters afterwards he thought they should be punished by UEFA for their actions.

'I have never seen anything like it before. They totally intimidated the referee. We should not see things like that in football,' he added.

UEFA spokesman Rob Faulkner said: 'Having seen what went on on the security side and in the match itself, it would be standard procedure for the referee to report the incidents and for the Control and Disciplinary Committee to take the appropriate action.

'The whole issue of Lille playing in that stadium will also need to be addressed. We cannot say now what action the Disciplinary Committee will take, but if they find against Lille, it could well be severe.'

Feyenoord have already been expelled from this season's UEFA Cup after crowd trouble against Blackburn Rovers and Nancy and many clubs have in the past been ordered to play matches behind closed doors or at neutral venues after crowd trouble.

Three of the four games went off without major incident, but trouble started early at the 42,000 capacity Felix-Bollaert Stadium where Lille faced United because their own ground does not meet UEFA specifications for European ties.

United officials had expressed concern over security issues before the match and they proved to be well-founded.

After 15 minutes a United fan climbed a fence in what appeared to be an attempt to get on to the pitch and approached his team's goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar.

Stewards took the supporter back to the stands triggering an angry reaction from other United fans who were distressed at being pushed against the 10-foot high security fences.

Riot police intervened with truncheons and sprayed tear gas as several supporters tried to climb over the fences.

The game was not stopped and calm returned after a few minutes when fans, including a child and an elderly woman, were lifted over the barriers to safety.

Before the match United expressed concern about the basic facilities at the ground and were surprised Lille were allowed to move the game to the stadium in northern France rather than a larger modern venue like the Stade de France.

As the incidents are certain to be included in the report submitted by Dutch referee Eric Braamhaar the issue will be reviewed by UEFA who are likely to take a tough stand if they find Lille officials guilty of any charges.

Real beat Bayern at the Bernabeu where Raul scored twice to extend his record tally in the competition to 56 goals.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy added Real's third but Bayern gave themselves a chance of salvaging something from the second leg with goals from Lucio and Mark van Bommel.

A spectacular 25-metre strike from Ecuadorean midfielder Edison Mendez gave PSV a 1-0 win over Arsenal who failed to turn their first half superiority to their advantage.

A dominant Milan could only draw 0-0 with Celtic in Glasgow where Paolo Maldini became the fifth player, and first Italian, to make 100 Champions League appearances.

Champions Barcelona are in action against Liverpool at the Nou Camp on Wednesday when AS Roma host Lyon, Porto welcome Chelsea and Inter Milan are at home to Valencia in the remaining first knockout round, first leg ties.