A controversial game in which I’m sure everyone will have their own point of view.
I’m not going to do a play by play – you can catch the match reports at BBC and Guardian.
What I AM going to do is address the key issues – the crowd trouble at the start of the game, the two controversial goals, the ‘protest/walkoff’ and Fergie’s reaction after the game.
I think we tend to forget that Lille are still a small club – not small as in Everton small, but even smaller than that. Their own stadium is not fit for European football, and to top it off the Ligue 1 is not as international or full of big stars and money as the Premiership is.
The result? The stadium was barely within safety standards. The players were high on their success against Milan at San Siro and got carried away by the occasion. The police probably over-reacted, although we will know more after the UEFA inquiry.
It was unfortunate and luckily no one got seriously injured.
A disgraceful situation for French football, and something they will have to look into. In light of the recent media attention on Serie A for their crowd trouble, expect UEFA to take some serious action here.
The Guardian takes a more indepth look into the matter – read it here.
The bottom line is – there were problems from the start to the end, starting with fans being pushed against the barricades and riot police over-reacting to missiles being thrown on the pitch by fans at the end of the game. Will UEFA punish Lille? Definitely. Will they throw them out? Probably not, but with the precedent for Feyenoord already set in the UEFA Cup this season, it is quite possible that Manchester United get the night off when the return leg is to be played.
Lille’s Disallowed Goal
Technically, the ref’s decision was sound – Vidic was pushed as the Lille player jumped and headed the ball in, so yes, it was a foul. Initially I thought that Manchester United were extremely lucky and that the goal should have stood, but really, the ref got it right by the letter of the law.
Manchester United’s Goal
Quickly taken free kick – smart play by Giggs and within the rules.
Now the rules might be at fault – although I think the quick free kick is a good idea – but you don’t start complaining during the match.
I think the initial surrounding of the ref was to be expected – Lille had given everything in this match and had been undone by something that bordered on trickery. Like I said earlier they also lack exposure to such high-pressure situations, so that was understandable. What happened next though, was completely unacceptable.
Lille will maintain that they merely wanted to register a protest, but that is absolutely a ridiculous argument.
The comments coming out of Lille’s camp showed their inexperience.
Claude Puel, Lille’s manager, denied that his players intended to leave the pitch and insisted that it was “tradition” for French sides to complain about refereeing decisions in such a manner.
“I don’t understand why Alex Ferguson has said anything on the matter. He shouldn’t have said anything. I want to underline that the players never intended to leave the field. In France, this is the way we do things but we’ve had this with Ferguson before. Ferguson likes to influence referees and he enjoys trying to create polemic situations but I don’t want to be bogged down with these problems.”
I know I’m wandering into bigotry and what not here, but why do French managers make up ridiculous arguments (Wenger, Domenech) and pick a fight with Ferguson (Wenger again)?
Puel also claimed that Giggs’s goal should not have stood.
“It should have been a yellow card. In France a player can even be sent off for taking a free-kick so quickly. The rules are very clear.”
A blatant lack of understand of football rules. As manager of a club playing European football, you should be expected to know the rules and not have to whine about the fact that you don’t play the game like that in your own backyard.
Lille captain, Grégory Tafforeau, chimed in as well:
“When the goalkeeper asks to place his wall, you should wait for the referee’s whistle. There was no whistle at all and the player shot directly … the result is a goal.”
Once again, something the manager should have taught them before hand. Ignorance is no excuse for a lack of preparation.
I think Alex Ferguson was dead wrong to attack Lille like that. It’s all well and good when you have a go at your own players (like Fergie did with Neville, which was a treat to watch really), but you don’t have a go at opposition managers.
Ferguson showed a lack of class, and I think this is the main reason why he usually refuses to talk to the press after games.
Bottom line – Lille shouldn’t be in the Champions League if they don’t know the rules, don’t have a stadium to play in and can’t behave properly on the pitch.
But it’s not Fergie’s place to say it.
Having said all that – the fault lies with Lille’s management for the mess in the stands, and with the manager himself for the mess at the end.
Registering a protest? My fuckin’ ass.