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Lyon snatch late winner against Celtic

LYON, France, Dec 10 (AFP) – A late penalty by Lyon’s Juninho ended Celtic’s Champions League campaign as the French side won 3-2 in this topsy-turvy fixture here on Wednesday to book their passage to the knockout stages.

Brazilian Juninho fired home from the spot with four minutes remaining to clinch the match when Celtic, who had twice equalized, only needed to finish level to earn their passage.

Paul Le Guen’s men opened the scoring early on through Giovane Elber but Welshman John Hartson levelled matters midway through the half. After the break, Juninho hit home a long-range effort but when Chris Sutton equalized, it looked as though the tide had turned in favour of Martin O’Neill’s team.

Then came Juninho’s late spot kick which finally put an end to Celtic’s Champions League campaign after Bobo Balde was adjudged by Swiss referee Urs Meier to have blocked a shot with his hand and a penalty was given.

Juninho shot low and to the left with Swedish keeper Magnus Hedman easily beaten to put Lyon into the last 16 as the winners of Group A by a point from Bayern Munich, who had beaten Anderlecht 1-0.

At least the Scots had the consolation of further European football in the UEFA Cup in which they were the beaten finalists last season.

O’Neill was unhappy with the penalty decision – and the officiating of the entire match.

“The referee will have to examine his own particular game during the night,” he said. “It sounds like sour grapes but we’ll have to deal with it. We are out of the competition, but he’ll have to look at his own performance.

“It was so disappointing to have lost a game of that magnitude to a decision like that.”

The game started at full throttle with the Frenchmen surging forward in attack. Elber had a shot on target well smothered by Hedman and Anthony Reveillere fired over the bar.

The game was just six minutes old when Elber regained his goalscoring touch in a poacher’s strike.

Juninho fired a superb, curling free kick to the top right hand corner and it bounced back into play off the crossbar into the path of Elber who was well-placed to nod a precise header back into the net.

Elber’s last goal for Lyon was way back on November 9 when he scored in the 4-1 league win over Marseille. It was also his 23rd goal in Champions League action but most of those had been for Bayern Munich.

Elber was very close to scoring again after turning on the edge of the box and curling a right-foot shot just wide of the left-hand upright with Lyon keeper Gregory Coupet well beaten.

Neil Lennon earned a yellow card for a high boot on to the thigh of Mahamadou Diarra but moments later the Lyon midfielder had fired a looping header close to the top right hand corner of Hedman’s goal.

Then came Hartson’s equaliser in the 24th minute. A long ball was headed back to Henrik Larsson by Sutton but his weak left-foot shot was easily blocked by Coupet.

Unfortunately for Lyon, the ball cannoned right into the path of Hartson who lodged the ball firmly into the back of the net through the legs of a home player.

Lyon, who slipped up by losing 1-0 to Anderlecht in their last fixture, went ahead soon after the break in spectacular fashion.

Juninho fired home with a 30-metre shot which dipped and swerved past Celtic’s captain Hedman in the 52nd minute.

Then Florent Malouda hit a long ball to Elber who, in a one-on-one with Hedman and looking a good bet to fire home Lyon’s third, managed to shoot over the crossbar.

O’Neill changed his formation midway through the half, bringing on Ross Wallace for Michael Gray and Mohamed Sylla for Hartson.

It was opportunism by Sylla which brought about the half chance from which Sutton scored in the 75th minute.

Defender Jeremie Berthod was surprised by the tenacious tackling of Sylla who dispossessed him on the right and crossed for Sutton to shoot a precise shot into the left hand side netting to the delight of the Celtic fans who had made the trip to the Stade Gerland.

A further dramatic twist was to come however with Juninho’s winning goal breaking the hearts of those Scottish fans.

 © AFP

                                                                Subject: France news