Giovane Elber may well be regretting his recent remarks about Henrik Larsson following the Celtic FC striker's telling contribution against Olymique Lyonnais in the UEFA Champions League last night.
"Larsson is a big-name player who has scored a lot of goals in the Scottish league," Elber said on the eve of Lyon's trip to Celtic on Tuesday. "But where does he rank among the top strikers? He has only played one match in the Champions League this year and hasn't done much in the history of the competition."
Larsson certainly made his mark at Celtic Park, however, although for once he was content to play provider. The former Sweden striker made both Celtic goals with two magnificent left-wing crosses, paving the way for substitute Liam Miller and Chris Sutton to grab the second-half goals which put Martin O'Neill's men back in contention in Group A.
Elber, by contrast, had a quiet game by his standards although he did threaten a couple of times in the first half. The first chance for either man came after 16 minutes when Alan Thompson fed Larsson but his shot on the turn lacked the penetration to beat Grégory Coupet in the Lyon goal.
Elber effort saved
Two minutes later, Elber flashed in a snapshot which failed to trouble Magnus Hedman in the Celtic goal. It was a bright start from the visitors and Elber was unfortunate not to give them a 22nd-minute lead. Having pulled away from Stanislav Varga, the Brazilian made good contact with a right-wing cross but his effort was well saved by a diving Hedman.
Larsson wins penalty
Lyon were a touch fortunate to go in at the break on level terms, however, after surviving a major scare after 39 minutes. Anthony Réveillère was adjudged to have tripped Larsson inside the area although the visitors will feel justice was done when Thompson's powerful spot-kick was parried by Coupet.
Larsson continued to threaten after the break and his snapshot on the hour mark produced another solid save from Coupet. Just as it appeared the hosts' efforts would go unrewarded, Larsson turned creator. His 70th-minute cross allowed Miller to nip in to open the scoring and eight minutes later he delivered another inch-perfect ball for his strike partner Sutton to nod beyond the helpless goalkeeper.
More to Larsson's game
While Larsson would never claim it was one of his better performances, his display showed there is more to his game than the predatory instincts which have plagued Scottish defenders for several years. And Elber may think twice before questioning the Swede's ability at the top level when the two sides meet again in France in the return fixture.
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