Lyon, Inter and Ajax all have good chances of qualifying for the second phase in what is becoming the most exciting group of the competition.
Inter and Ajax lead the group on eight points, and play each other in their final fixture on November 12. They are closely followed by Lyon, on seven points, who travel to already eliminated Rosenborg.
Lyon must win in Norway in order to qualify. Inter easily disposed of Rosenborg 3-0 at the San Siro last night, to keep themselves top of Group D, and of the Ajax match coach Hector Cuper said: “We must go to Holland with just victory inmind. If the match finishes in a draw, we qualify anyway. However, our objective is always victory.”
Attack-minded Inter played with three up front last night, and the gamble paid off with two of the three goals coming from forwards Alvaro Recoba and Hernan Crespo.
“I’m pleased with how I played, especially when I play as a third striker, as happens for Uruguay.” explained Recoba.
“Also, when I play in a more advanced position I manage to be more useful and decisive, like when the first goal was scored,” he added.
Cuper recognised the risk of playing 4-3-3, but revealed the need for a win and thegood form of his strikers forced him in to it.
“I knew I was taking risks with three strikers, but we had to win. When you play with such an attacking formation you have great advantages when theteam recovers the ball,” he said.
“Crespo, Vieri and Recoba were in form, so I decided to field them. And then, there can always be some surprises,” added Cuper.
Ajax played themselves right back in to contention with a hard fought 2-0 win over Lyon, and were made to play with ten men for the last half and hour after Christian Chivu’s sending off. But coach Ronald Koeman had no complaints about the Romanian’s dismissal, for a foul on Tony Vareilles.
“My players took too many risks and Chivu must learn to master himself in these situations. Sometimes he is a little too aggressive,” criticised Koeman.
“But that aside, I am very happy – it’s a fantastic result for the team. I’m very proud of the team – they resisted well,” he said.
After triumphing in this scrappy affair, Koeman is confident of qualification ahead of November’s games.
“I’m very confident for the next game – I can’t see Lyon winning in Rosenborg,” predicted the former Dutch international.
“We were not considered to be potential Group D winners but we’ve shown we have the quality required to qualify – and I’m confident of qualification.”
Lyon were left fuming by the match officials’ decision not to award a goal to the home side after Sonny Anderson’s effort just before half time appeared to have crossed the Ajax goal line.
“I’m astonished,” declared Lyon coach Paul Le Guen. “I suppose it’s a new argument for the use of video replays but tonight that should not have been necessary – it was so evidently a goal,” he complained.
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas also claimed the assistant referee was reduced to tears after the game.
“I saw the linesman cry in the dressing rooms after seeing the action replay,” Aulas said.
“We’re not going to cry too, but its hard to swallow. We’ll keep dignified even though there will forever be a doubt about that goal.”