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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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By ESPN Staff

UEFA to rule on Lille's United 'goal' protest

UEFA are expected to reject Lille's protest about the validity of Manchester United's winning goal in their Champions League match this week.

The French club have lodged an official complaint after Ryan Giggs' quick free-kick secured a 1-0 away victory for United in the first leg of their last-16 match in Lens on Tuesday.

UEFA's control and disciplinary panel have not yet made a decision on Lille's protest but are expected to dismiss the claims.

It is understood that officials from UEFA will recommend that the disciplinary body is satisfied that Dutch referee Eric Braamhaar made the correct decision in allowing the goal to stand.

Lille also face being fined for the behaviour of their players, who threatened to walk off the pitch after the goal.

Meanwhile, Manchester United have reacted angrily after attempts by French officials to blame the club and their fans for the crowd problems.

United believe a tragedy was only narrowly averted after supporters became crushed into a section of the Stade Felix-Bollaert in Lens.

Lille's director general Xavier Thuilot has pointed the finger at United, claiming their early distribution of tickets allowed high-quality fakes to be produced.

Meanwhile, Damien Vanoise, the head of security at the stadium, has accused United fans of sparking the problems by 'violent behaviour'.

Vanoise added: 'There was not a problem of communication. From the moment we saw the supporters trying to pull on the railings, what interpretation we can make of that, as security guards? For me, it was violent behaviour.

'I can tell you that nobody was crushed in the wire fencing.

'There weren't too many people in that stand. The stand was not full.'

United will answer the allegations fully in their report to UEFA but are privately furious Lille are trying to blame them for their own shortcomings.

On the ticket issue, a club spokesman told PA Sport: 'Tickets were distributed by recorded delivery 11 days before the game or for collection from February 1. We would normally send out tickets for our home games at Old Trafford six weeks before the match and we have no problems with forgeries.'

It is understood United will tell the UEFA the poor quality of the tickets provided by the French club allowed forgeries to be made easily.

Meanwhile, Mark Harrison, one of the fans at Lens and a one-time member of the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association (IMUSA), hit out at the claims of violent behaviour.

He said: 'That is complete rubbish. There was no violent behaviour until the police started firing tear gas, after which a few people did lash out.

'Before that people were genuinely scared, were shouting for help and were trying to get out of the stand.

'The police and stewards reacted by padlocking the gate and firing tear gas. They now appear to be trying to justify their actions because they are in trouble.'

European football's governing body will deliver their verdict on the crowd problems on March 22.

It seems likely that in future Lille will be forced to use the Stade de France in Paris for European games.