Tevez hands United the advantage

Manchester United and AC Milan will be happy their respective draws.

    Carlos Tevez sends a birthday tribute in his
    goal celebration [AFP]
    Substitute striker Carlos Tevez scored an 87th-minute equaliser to give Manchester United a 1-1 draw at Lyon in the first leg of the second round of the Uefa Champions League.

    Tevez poked the ball in from close range after Karim Benzema had given Lyon the lead in the 55th.

    Lyon goalkeeper Gregory Coupet dived backward to keep out Cristiano Ronaldo's free kick in the 86th, but could do nothing to stop Tevez from scoring from three metres after Lyon substitute Fred failed to properly clear the ball.

    "We had the chance to be leading with only a few minutes left, it's very annoying to concede a goal in the closing minutes,'' Lyon coach Alain Perrin said.

    "The plan was to stop Manchester playing their game and then to hit them on the counterattack. That's what we did, but unfortunately we couldn't hold the result until the end.''

    Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson praised the impact made by two of his substitutes.

    "Tevez and Nani improved our chances. I thought they both did very well,'' Ferguson said.

    "We're delighted to get the draw. You're not sure you're going to get that type of away goal in European football.''

    Benzema screamer

    Benzema, tightly marked throughout the match, found space to turn on the edge of the penalty area to give Lyon the lead with a powerful shot into the bottom right corner.

    "We were in control and a fantastic goal gave them the energy to make it difficult for us,'' Ferguson said.

    "I thought they defended very well.''

    It was the 20-year-old France striker's fourth goal in the Champions League and 26th in all competitions this season. He scored twice in Lyon's final group match against Rangers.

    "It was not easy for Karim, as he was alone up front,'' Perrin said.

    "We were looking to support him as much as possible. I think he performed his role well.''

    Lyon has never reached the semifinals of Europe's top club competition, while United won its second European Cup in 1999.

    Coupet and Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs both reached milestones.

    Coupet was playing his 500th career match for Lyon, while Giggs marked his 100th appearance in the Champions League.

    Both teams played with a lone center forward: Benzema for Lyon and Rooney for United.

    Lyon threatened first when defender Rio Ferdinand blocked winger Sidney Govou's shot in the seventh, and Patrice Evra scrambled the ball away before Kim Kallstrom could get to the rebound.

     Karim Benzema, right, scored despite the
    attention of four United defenders [AFP]
    Open match

    The match came alive midway through the first half when both teams traded chances.

    United survived a scare in the 23rd when Ferdinand almost turned Jeremy Toulalan's cross into his own net.

    A minute later, Coupet rushed off his line to deny Rooney after he poked the ball through Sebastien Squillaci's legs and ran through.

    Lyon hit back when Benzema shot narrowly over from Francois Clerc's pass.

    In the 27th, Lyon defender Jean-Alain Boumsong blocked a shot from Scholes after the former England midfielder cut inside from the left.

    Hargreaves was shown a yellow card in the 39th for hacking down Govou, prompting wild reactions from the Lyon bench, with Perrin furious with the fourth official.

    Ronaldo and Juninho tried their luck several times with long shots, and Coupet tipped Ronaldo's free kick past the post in the 44th.

    Juninho went close to adding a second goal for Lyon in the 67th when his powerful free kick went just wide.

    Advantage AC Milan

    Meanwhile, AC Milan held Arsenal to a 0-0 draw in the first leg match at the Emirates Stadium.

    Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor twice came close to finding the winner when he had the ball in the net in the 53rd, only to be ruled offside.

    Then in the final minute of injury time he could only head a cross onto the cross bar with AC Milan goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac beaten.

    The Gunners dominated possession and scoring chances, but the Milan defence held firm in their legendary composed style.

    "I think we should go home disappointed after the chances we created,'' Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas said.

    Emmanuel Adebayor rues his miss [AFP]
    "We deserved more than we got tonight.

    "We gave everything, but unfortunately sometimes in football you don't get what you deserve.''

    Milan also had their chances to score. Midfielder Massimo Ambrosini had an early header saved by goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, standing in for the sick Manuel Almunia, while right back Massimo Oddo sent an angled shot wide on a counterattack in the 63rd.

    The Gunners accuracy was lacking as Alexsandr Helb set up Eboue in the 53rd, but his shot went wide, while Da Silva soon sent a shot over the bar as Arsenal attacked relentlessly.

    Fabregas improved to at least force Kalac into a save into the 75th.

    Kalac started in goal despite dislocating the index finger on his right hand in a training session on Sunday.

    Both sides had injury concerns for the return leg.

    Arsenal lost defender Kolo Toure in the seventh minute after he was hurt trying to block a shot from 18-year-old striker Alexandre Pato, who himself was carried off on a stretcher with a foot injury in the 77th.

    Arsenal exited the tournament at this stage last season, while Milan beat Liverpool in the final for its seventh European title.

    The match was Arsenal's 100th Champions League match, all of them contested under Wenger.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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