Lille faces possible sanctions

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> UEFA opened an investigation on Wednesday into the trouble on and off the field during Lille's Champions League loss to Manchester United.

updated: March 22, 2007 06:37 IST
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UEFA opened an investigation on Wednesday into the trouble on and off the field during Lille's Champions League loss to Manchester United. Man United fans said they were crushed against high fences at Tuesday's game, and manager Alex Ferguson was furious that Lille's coaching staff waved players off the field after Ryan Giggs scored in the 1-0 win. "UEFA has officially opened an investigation into events at the UEFA Champions League first knockout round first-leg match," UEFA said. UEFA will look at whether Lille breached safety and security instructions, and alleged improper conduct of both sets of fans. The matter will be discussed at the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body's next meeting on March 22. UEFA, led by former France great Michel Platini, has shown a hard line on security and safety issues. The governing body of European soccer recently threw Feyenoord out of the UEFA Cup for crowd disturbances. UEFA also said it would review Giggs' 83rd-minute goal, which was taken before the referee whistled play to restart and led to the near walk-off. Fans then threw objects onto the field after Giggs' goal. The match was played at the Stade Felix-Bollaert in Lens - one of the stadiums used for the 1998 World Cup - because Lille's stadium doesn't meet UEFA standards. "We cannot say now what action the disciplinary committee will take, but if they find against Lille, it could well be severe," UEFA spokesman Rob Faulkner told the BBC Web site. "The whole issue of Lille playing in that stadium will also need to be addressed." Last season, Lille played its home matches at the Stade de France outside Paris. Riot police in action Soon after the game started, some United fans were pushed against a high metal security barrier designed to keep supporters off the field. Riot police fired tear gas into the crowd, and security officials helped at least two fans over the fence to safety on the field. Ferguson said United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar complained of double vision from the effect of tear gas. There were no reports of any major injuries but the scenes were reminiscent of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in Sheffield, England, when 96 fans were crushed to death in an overcrowded section of the stadium. "I think some of the fans may have initially overreacted themselves to the situation in the stand but the police made the situation escalate out of control," United fan Mark Harrison said on his return to Manchester. "It was quite frightening to witness these kind of scenes." Manchester United urged fans at the game to e-mail the club to help compile a report for UEFA. "Reds officials would like to understand the sequence of events that led to an incident in the away end during the first half," United said in a statement. United said it met with UEFA and Football Association officials after the game and would submit a report to UEFA. Giggs' goal prompted angry protests from the Lille players and fans, who felt he had taken his kick too quickly without waiting for the referee's whistle. After referee Eric Braamhaar allowed the goal to stand, Lille players began to walk off the field and objects were thrown from the crowd. Some were aimed at Giggs but one hit captain Gary Neville, who left the stadium with a gash over his eye. "I have never seen anything like that before," Ferguson said of Lille's reaction to the goal. "It created an intimidating and hostile atmosphere and it was totally wrong." Lille coach Claude Puel said the team was following standard practice in French soccer. "In France, you must express a complaint after the first stoppage in play which follows the decision," he said. "It is for that reason we stopped the game." Lille president Michel Seydoux said the players' reaction was one of frustration. "If Lille had done the same thing the referee would not have allowed the goal," Seydoux said. "It was not an attempt to get the game abandoned." British sports minister Richard Caborn said stadium safety checks should be conducted weeks in advance, rather than on the day of the match. "There are a number of grounds where Champions League matches are being played that don't come up to the standard of UEFA," Caborn told London's LBC NEWS radio.