Liverpool conceded late in the match yet again in Europe this season to give French side Lille the upperhand in the last 16 of the Europa League.
Before the game the reds welcomed Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson back to the starting line up. Ryan Babel also replaced the injured Yossi Benayoun. Rafa had asked for a response from the players but the first ten minutes of this game were dominated by Lille keen to press ahead on the front foot and try to take advantage of Liverpool’s recent poor form.
After the reds survived the opening exchanges, and as the half wore on, some improvement returned to Liverpool’s play.
A neat interchange between Torres and Babel put Ryan in the clear, but his shot was stopped – if the 1-2 had ended with the ball at Torres feet it could have been a different matter.
Liverpool again went close towards the end of the half.
Steven Gerrard’s free kick was stopped and then the cross back in found Torres head. Again the keeper reacted well to keep out Liverpool’s number 9.
The second half was an entirely more drab affair. The game appeared to be heading to stalemate until with just minutes left on the clock, a free kick from Eden Hazard fired straight in to the goal after eluding the reds defence and Pepe Reina.
The reds found a sense of urgency for the final minutes but it was a little too late to start playing football.
A disappointing performance, although the result will be reminiscent of the Olympiakos defeat just over 5 years ago. With Lyon dumping Real Madrid out of the European Cup and now this first leg result, French football has a smile back on its face.
Liverpool will have to improve to wipe that smile off them in one week’s time.
Post Match Comments
Rafa Benitez (who took some time before joining the press conference)
“I think it was an improvement. The reaction has been very positive. I am disappointed with the result, but really pleased with the effort of the players.
“I have confidence we can beat anyone on a good day at Anfield. I would be worried today if the players hadn’t worked as hard as they have. The fans will play a part, they will push and will be behind the team.
“Lille are a good side, with good players and they are dangerous. We will play a difficult game at Anfield but have confidence we can beat them.”
“When you play away in these knockout competitions, you have to score when you have chances.
“In any competition it is important to try and score away, particularly in this one. It is a great advantage if you do. If not you have to be strong, but I think we were strong enough today.
“We had two or three situations, so that was a pity, but the reaction was good and we still have 90 minutes to play.
“Sometimes you play well and score an early goal – then you can manage the game. If we work as hard as we did today, we can beat anyone.
“The attitude of the players was fantastic. We were talking about not letting the fans down in terms of team effort and I think we did this.
“Every game is important for us now. We have to be ready to play Portsmouth and try to win. Then we have to look to the Europa League game, that is how it is when you are a top side playing in different competitions.”
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