'You need luck and they cleared four chances off the line'

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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson branded Bayer Leverkusen "lucky" after they ended his hopes of lifting the European Cup at Hampden Park.

Ferguson claimed Manchester United had four chances cleared off the line during the 1-1 draw at the BayArena which condemned them to a semi-final defeat on the away goals' rule. He also felt Oliver Neuville's equaliser deep into first-half stoppage time, which cancelled out Roy Keane's opener, might even have come after the allotted two minutes of added time.

"I think in any game you need that bit of luck and there were four opportunities cleared off the line," said the disappointed United manager. "That's why we needed that little bit of luck. Leverkusen got that luck tonight with their equalising goal.

"That was the decisive moment right before half-time and it might have been more than the two minutes. That was a terrible blow for us to go in at 1-1 at half-time after looking at that point that we were going to score more goals. If we had gone in at 1-0 we would have won the game."

Ferguson added it was his biggest disappointment in Europe since losing to Borussia Dortmund in the semis in 1997.

"It doesn't matter where the final is and if you lose in any semi-final it is a disappointing occasion," he said.

Defeat completes a miserable 24 hours for United after Arsenal beat Bolton to virtually end their three-year reign as Premiership champions.

Instead of a hoped-for double of European Cup and Premier title, United could now end the season empty handed for only the third time in 13 years.

The Leverkusen coach, Klaus Toppmöller, was ecstatic. "This is a time for cigarettes and drink and then tomorrow I will go and see Real Madrid play Barcelona," he said.