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Contenders stutter at start line

Published: Sunday 11 September 2005, 23.42CET
Group D: LOSC Lille Métropole's victory at the weekend came in contrast to the domestic fortunes of their Champions League rivals. features

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Published: Sunday 11 September 2005, 23.42CET

Contenders stutter at start line

Group D: LOSC Lille Métropole's victory at the weekend came in contrast to the domestic fortunes of their Champions League rivals.
LOSC Lille Métropole were the only members of Group D to taste domestic success at the weekend, as SL Benfica and Manchester United FC suffered setbacks in local derbies, while Villarreal CF's late draw came at a price - an injury to playmaker Juan Román Riquelme.

Sporting Club de Portugal 2-1 SL Benfica

Benfica coach Ronald Koeman suffered his second consecutive Portuguese Liga defeat, losing the 'eternal' Lisbon derby against Sporting Club de Portugal. Simão had cancelled out Luís Loureiro's opener for Sporting with a deflected free-kick, but they failed to hold out for a point as Liedson headed in a 74th-minute winner.

Ricardo Rocha was shown a red card for a late challenge to compound Benfica's misery as they remain on one point after three matches. Petit and Bruno Aguiar were conspicuous by their absences through injury, but both should be fit to face Lille.

Koeman, who gave debuts to new signings Fabrizio Miccoli and Georgios Karagounis, said: "In the first half we played well but we suffered a goal from a corner. In the second period we changed the team but Ricardo Rocha was sent off and our work became harder. This is a terrible start for us but we will keep on working. I think we will improve because we have a good team."

Simão also enjoyed a goalscoring week in Portugal's FIFA World Cup qualifiers with two goals against Luxembourg, though team-mate Quim could only look on from the bench. João Pereira and Manuel Fernandes were on under-21 duty with Portugal, as the latter scored the winning goal against Russia.

FC Metz 0-2 LOSC Lille Métropole

Lille clinched their first away win of the season at Metz, who finished the game with ten men, courtesy of two goals from Peter Odemwingie. The Nigerian striker struck on 50 and 60 minutes to move last season's Ligue 1 runners-up into eighth spot.

Slovenian playmaker Milenko Acimovic returned to the starting lineup, while striker Odemwingie was preferred to Matt Moussilou, as coach Claude Puel continues his rotation policy which worked so well last term.

"Since the start of the season we have been looking to find our rhythm, and I think we may have found it here," said Puel. "Step by step, we linked up well and showed our true fighting spirit."

New signing Daniel Gygax did not play the entire 90 minutes, after featuring in Switzerland's World Cup qualifier with Cyprus in which he scored the third goal in a 3-1 victory. Lille's only player on the injury list is midfield player Stéphane Dumont who is still recovering from a knee injury.

Villarreal CF 1-1 Sevilla FC

Villarreal are still waiting for their first Primera División win of the season after coming from behind to draw 1-1 with Sevilla. The Champions League contenders suffered a setback after 25 minutes when playmaker Juan Román Riquelme was taken off after taking a blow to the ankle from Vicenzo Maresca. Worse was to come for the home side as Adriano Correia scored past debutant goalkeeper Sebastián Viera to put Sevilla ahead.

Villarreal were fortunate not to go further behind after Frédéric Kanouté missed a penalty, before Luciano Figueroa salvaged a point with 17 minutes left. Manuel Luis Pellegrini’s side finished the game with ten men, however, after Alessio Tacchinardi was shown a straight red card. Marcos Senna was rested as a precaution ahead of their midweek fixture - he is reported to have overcome his recent knee problems.

Coach Pellegrini said: "Riquelme's injury was a hammer blow for us and it allowed Sevilla to hit us more on the counterattack. But my players did not, at any point, lose their faith. We persisted even when things were not turning out for us and that allowed us to get back into contention. I admire Sevilla a lot and so have no qualms about the result, gaining points is better than losing them."

Manchester United FC 1-1 Manchester City FC

Manchester United dropped their first points of the season after being pegged back by local rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford. Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooij gave the red side of Manchester the lead on the stroke of half-time after reacting quickest to a rebound, only for Joey Barton to equalise 12 minutes from time and ensure City took a share of the spoils.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: "It was very frustrating. They parked themselves at the edge of the box and just hoped for scraps, it was up to us to do something about it. I thought getting the goal on half-time would open the game up for us, but they just sat and defended in the second half. They scored with their first shot."

Sir Alex chose to bench the experienced duo of Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs, as a precaution ahead of Wednesday's Group D opener against Villarreal, while Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo was given compassionate leave to attend his father's funeral, though he will return in time for midweek. United's only injury problems revolve around long-term absentees Gary Neville, Louis Saha and Ole Gunnar Solskjær.

United defender Gabriel Heinze, dismissed for two yellow cards in midweek as Argentina lost against Paraguay, played all 90 minutes of the Manchester derby. Van Nistelrooij had a happier World Cup qualifying week, with three goals in two games for the Netherlands against Armenia and Andorra, as compatriot Edwin van der Sar kept two clean sheets.

Last updated: 20/09/05 10.06CET

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