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Lille 1-0 Liverpool: Reds Slump To Europa League Defeat As Eden Hazard Steals The Show
Rafael Benitez's troops lose out in France...
By Stephen Darwin
Eden Hazard scored the only goal in Lille's 1-0 victory over Liverpool in the Europa League round of 16, leaving the reds whole season in the balance.
Despite going into the game underdogs, Lille will have felt they stood a good chance against three-time winners Liverpool after the English sides good run of form came to an abrupt end in a disappointing defeat to Wigan Athletic at the DW on Monday night.
Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger returned to Liverpool’s back-four following both players being sidelined with injuries, whilst out-of-favour Ryan Babel was given a rare start after Israeli captain Yossi Benayoun was ruled out of the game.
Defender Adil Rami, who scored a crucial goal in the game against Fenerbahce, returned to the Lille side after being forced out of action with a bout of flu, although the French side were without star player and Ivory Coast international Gervinho.
It took only twenty seconds for Lille to get their first shot on target, with the French side breaking after Babel lost the ball for the reds before Yohan Cabaye took a shot which forced a good save out of Pepe Reina down on his left-hand side.
The home side continued to press Liverpool in the opening minutes of the first-half, pushing forward and forcing a number of last gasp challenges from Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger, Johnson and Emiliano Insua across the Liverpool back-line.
With fifteen minutes gone Liverpool created their first real forward-move of the game, with Fernando Torres breaking free and playing a good ball to Babel on the left who saw the ball taken from under his feet and knocked out of player for a Liverpool corner.
With 25 minutes gone in the first-half Liverpool had their first shot on target, with Babel blasting it from just inside the box straight into the legs of Mickael Landreau after receiving a well-timed through-ball from Torres. The Dutch winger may have felt he could have done better.
Always looking to extend his European goal scoring record, Steven Gerrard saw his first attempt of the evening fly over the bar after turning and shooting from distance on the right-hand side of Landreau’s goal.
Torres continued to cause the Lille defence problems as the end of the first-half drew near, winning a free-kick just outside the box which Gerrard took and Landreau parried away from the Lille goal before the ball was sent it back into the box, with Torres getting a head to it and forcing another fantastic save from the French keeper.
England right-back Johnson again found himself in another position to send the ball into the box, this time finding Lucas Leiva in the Lille penalty area, who took one too many touch allowing for the Lille defence to sweep up and play the ball safely away.
With four minutes of the second-half gone Eden Hazard managed to knock the ball past Reina and into the Liverpool net, only to see the goal disallowed for offside, although replays would suggest that Johnson was playing the Lille forward onside.
Babel again decided to test the Lille keeper, taking a well-struck shot from just outside the box on the left hand side, with Landreau making another great save just moments after Johnson went down in the box claiming for a penalty, with the referee telling the full-back to get to his feet.
Babel continued troubled the Lille back-four, breaking down the left-hand side and sending in a low cross which deflected off Rami for a corner, taken by Gerrard and cleared well by Lille, who saw their counter-attack brought to an end by Argentine full-back Insua.
Lille showed that they weren’t willing to sit back after a good period of Liverpool pressure, with Emerson breaking forward and taking a long-range shot which Reina could only parry out for a corner before Balmont sent it back into the Liverpool box, forcing Carragher to get a foot to it and send it out of play.
After his early first-half effort, Cabaye once again decided to test Reina in the Liverpool goal, sending a powerful shot from long-distance just over the bar.
With 72 minutes gone Spanish winger Albert Riera came on for Liverpool, replacing Ryan Babel whilst Lille replaced Cabaye with Stephane Dumont.
After his early effort had been adjudged offside, Hazard had another attempt on target from outside the box, this time without the flag going up, with Reina having to push the ball to ground before jumping on it to put an end to the Lille attack.
Lille made their second substitution of the game with just ten minutes of normal time left to play, bringing on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to replace Pierre-Alain Frau.
Minutes later the French side made their third and final change of the evening, bringing on Larson Toure to replace Ludovic Obraniak
With the final whistle drawing closer Lille won a free-kick just outside of the Liverpool penalty area, which was sent in by Hazard and found the back of the net after neither Lille nor Liverpool players got a touch to it, giving the home side the lead.
Minutes later Liverpool made a change to try and get back into the game, taking off Dirk Kuyt and brining on Nabil El-Zhar.
The result is not a disaster for Rafael Benitez's side, who have the chance to correct their mistakes at Anfield next week, but the win will most likely give Lille a much-needed confidence boost going into the second-leg.
As for Juve it was a great performance against Fullham although Zacheronni insisted the tie is far from over. Legroteglie,Zebina and Trezeguet scoring for Juve