Ole Gunnar Solskjær showed himself to be more than just a super-sub with a scintillating strike that gave Manchester United FC the opening goal of a 1-1 draw with Lille OSC in UEFA Champions League Group G.
Bruno Cheyrou scored a second-half equaliser that was almost as impressive and the draw was enough to put the home team in the UEFA Cup while preventing United from claiming top spot in the group.
Lille celebrate UEFA Cup spot
LOSC celebrated at full time with the news of Olympiakos Piraeus FC's 1-1 draw with RC Deportivo La Coruña in Athens which confirmed their place in the UEFA Cup as the third-placed side in the group. It was no more than they deserved for a spirited performance against the English champions.
Furious start tests Carroll
The French team made a furious start and peppered shots at United goalkeeper Roy Carroll, who was making his debut in the Champions League. Then, with only six minutes on the clock, United broke away to take the lead with a fantastic strike. The ball from David Beckham was perfectly tailored to meet Solskjær’s run and the Norwegian placed a venomous drive beyond Grégory Wimbée and into the far corner of the net.
Solskjær has achieved stirring deeds in United’s last two games when coming off the bench and he enjoyed the rare privilege of a starting place in France. It was a side packed with players who normally have to watch from the bench as seven of Sir Alex Ferguson’s star names stayed at home while Laurent Blanc was a late withdrawal through illness.
Bassir and Cheyrou dangerous
LOSC were always a threat, particularly through the busy Salaheddine Bassir and Cheyrou but the visitors’ makeshift defence looked strong and Carroll dealt well with most things that were hurled at him having survived the initial onslaught when Mile Sterjovski and Bassir had good shots on goal.
Ecker misses out
In the 37th minute Djezon Boutoille clipped the ball across for Cheyrou to power in a header. Five minutes later LOSC’s best chance so far was wasted by Johnny Ecker after the ball had been allowed to drift right across the area. In the second half the home side were not quite so forceful although Cheyrou’s free-kick required a smart save from Carroll.
In the 65th minute Cheyrou got the goal his unstinting efforts had deserved, cleverly sidestepping two defenders on the edge of the area and making room for a drive that left Carroll no chance.
No second strike for Solskjær
When news came through that Olympiakos - their rivals for third place - had been pegged back the LOSC supporters could really begin to party.
United always looked dangerous whenever Paul Scholes could get into the penalty area but were unable to find a finish to match Solskjær's wonder strike. A late chance for the same player met with an uncharacteristically untidy finish and so United were forced to settle for second place in the group.