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Thursday, March 8, 2007

Champions League, Manchester 1-0 Lille

Larsson bows out in style
Henrik Larsson bowed out of Old Trafford on Wednesday with a reminder of why Manchester United had been so desperate to keep him until the end of the season as Sir Alex Ferguson's side stumbled into the last eight of the Champions League with a 1-0 win over Lille. It was the perfect farewell gift from the veteran Swede, who is due to head for home next Wednesday, having completed a successful 10-week loan stint from Helsingborg.

Manchester United had two good chances in the first half but Wayne Rooney's shot was blocked and John O'Shea hit the bar. Lille grew in confidence but failed to capitalise as Jean Makoun wasted a header from six yards and Peter Odemwingie's header rattled the post.

Larsson sealed victory in the 72nd minute when he headed home Cristiano Ronaldo's cross from the left.

Larsson might have marked the occasion with a goal after ten minutes, Larsson's exemplary first touch letting him down for once after Paul Scholes defence splitting pass found him in a couple of yards of space on the edge of the area.

Normal service was resumed five minutes later when a half-volleyed flick from the outside of his boot sent Scholes into the area. The midfielder duly chipped to the back post for Rooney, whose volley was bravely blocked by the Lille captain, Gregory Tafforeau, resulting in a corner that John O'Shea headed on to the bar.

Lille's Senegal goalkeeper Tony Sylva did well to hold a deflected shot from Scholes after a neat exchange of passes with Larsson but the biggest cheer of the first half was generated by the midfielder's attempt to take a quick free-kick, echoing the manner in which Ryan Giggs scored the first leg winner.

Giggs, watching from the stand, enjoyed the joke but once the free-kick was finally taken, Ronaldo's effort was sent straight into the Lille wall, as was a second attempt he was accorded because the visitors had not retreated the full ten yards.

Lille almost punished Manchester United at the start of the second half, when Peter Odemwingie's header beat van der Sar but came back off the post.

On the touchline, the mood of an increasingly irate Ferguson would not have been improved by the sight of Nicolas Plestan scything into Wayne Rooney from behind. The challenge earned the French defender a yellow card and most of Old Trafford breathed a collective sigh of relief when the England forward quickly got to his feet.

Manchester United were in desperate need of an injection of quality and, as so often this season, it was Ronaldo who provided it. Having show-boated his way through the preceding 70 minutes,Cristiano Ronaldo suddenly produced an unstoppable burst down the left flank before picking out Larsson on the edge of the six-yard box with a deft cutback.

It left Larsson with the simple task of steering his header beyond the hopelessly exposed Sylva.

Manchester United: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Silvestre, Carrick, Scholes, O'Shea, Ronaldo (Richardson 82), Rooney (Park 82), Larsson (Smith 74).
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Heinze, Brown, Giggs.

Booked: Ronaldo, Richardson.

Goals: Larsson 72.

Lille: Sylva, Chalme, Tavlaridis, Plestan, Tafforeau, Makoun, Dumont (Fauvergue 74), Keita, Obraniak, Michel Bastos (Debuchy 46), Odemwingie (Mirallas 74).
Subs Not Used: Malicki, Youla, Franquart, Lichtsteiner.

Booked: Makoun, Chalme, Tafforeau, Plestan.

Champions League Manchester United 1-0 Lille highlights and Larsson's goal: