LOSC Lille Métropole striker Peter Odemwingie praised coach Claude Puel for giving his side the self-belief they needed to defeat AC Milan 2-0 at the San Siro to qualify for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.
Lille needed to better AEK Athens FC’s result at RSC Anderlecht to reach the knockout rounds for the first time and they made sure of that thanks to goals in each half from Odemwinge and Kader Keita as AEK could only draw 2-2 in Brussels. "We've made history for our club," Odemwingie told uefa.com "We’ve got a very young team, but it’s very ambitious. We've shown what a very good team we are now and tonight we're among the best 16 clubs in Europe. I had every faith we would do it. On Sunday we played a tough away game [against AS Nancy-Lorraine] and showed a lot of character to come from behind and win [3-1] and that was good preparation for today."
Puel's side had made life difficult for themselves by drawing 2-2 against Anderlecht on Matchday 5, and Odemwingie praised coach Puel for restoring the French side's belief in themselves. "I could see the whole team was really confident before the game. We were really motivated and we have our coach to thank for that. Straight after our 2-2 draw last time he told us we were going to go to Milan and qualify. We believed we could do it, we worked hard and we’re delighted with the result."
Odemwingie scored the opening goal after just seven minutes and forced a clutch of saves out of Zeljko Kalac before Keita added a second in the 67th. With the result effectively safe their fate then depended on Anderlecht, holding off AEK, who came back from two down to make it a nervous finish. "It felt great to score," Odemwingie said. "It was a quick goal, which was exactly what we needed. I'm a striker and I haven't been scoring lately so to score against Milan was very satisfying."
Lille's second goalscorer was also proud of the achievements of his inexperienced team-mates. "We're very happy to have won because we deserved it," Keita said. "We took them on and showed great unity. The result means a lot to us because it's not easy to win in Milan. They are a great team, and their reputation speaks for itself, so just to see them lining up in front of you is a big deal. But we said we were going to fight hard, use our heads, get stuck in, not give an inch and that's what we did. We're the first French team ever to win here against Milan, we've written our names down in history and we’re delighted especially as this is such a young side."
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