By Skip Bandele

UEFA CUP: Battle of Nancy

THE PENULTIMATE Group E encounter between Nancy and Feyenoord in France was obviously not viewed as an insignificant game in a second rate competition by traveling Dutch ‘supporters’.

The so-called fans had already ransacked parts of the picturesque town during the afternoon before continuing their violent behaviour in the stadium itself. Soon after the visitors had fallen 3-0 behind in the 65th minute, riot police were forced to fire teargas into seating areas containing Rotterdam hooligans, who had begun skirmishes with French spectators.

The resulting chaos forced equally affected players and officials to abandon the pitch while the stadium was cleared. The game eventually continued in front of empty stands and brought to a conclusion, the score remaining unaltered. During this eerie spectacle Feyenoord’s Van Hooijdonk still managed to miss a penalty, much to the amusement of watching security personnel.

In a more peaceful affair, the only English club in action on the night, Newcastle, achieved first place in their group with a goalless draw in Frankfurt, thus avoiding the ‘big guns’ dropping out of the Champions League for the next phase of the competition.

Elsewhere, Espanyol qualified from Group F by beating Ajax 2-0 in Amsterdam, a result that also sees through Belgian minnows Zulte-Warengem. Panathinaikos are the only other team to make the last 32 from the latest round, picking up the necessary point from a 0-0 draw with Rapid Bucharest. Tottenham, Blackburn and Glasgow Rangers have all already safely advanced.

The last set of ties to be played on December 13/14 will decide the fate of luminaries such as Paris Saint-Germain, Besiktas, Palermo and Sporting Braga. The draw for the knock-out phase will be held in Switzerland on December 15.