RSC Anderlecht were denied a first-ever opening-night win in the UEFA Champions League as Nicolas Fauvergue struck a late equaliser to give LOSC Lille Métropole a 1-1 draw from their Group H trip to the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.
Denied at the last
Argentinian defender Nicolas Pareja had put the local favourites in front close to the break and it was a lead they defended until the 80th minute when substitute Fauvergue converted a Kader Keita pass for the equaliser.
Anderlecht had seemed set for the three points despite a bright opening from the visitors. Lille showed attacking intent with a speculative strike from Peter Odemwingie before the Nigerian international curled an effort that Daniel Zítka plucked out of the air. Yet the French side could not keep up the pressure and the hosts began to dictate the play, with in-form forward Mohamed Tchite stinging Lille keeper Tony Sylva's hands with a powerful shot.
This roused the Brussels crowd, who made themselves heard again when Anderlecht captain Bart Goor fired in a volley which Jean Makoun did well to deflect wide for a corner. With makeshift full-back Jelle Van Damme eager to advance upfield to support Goor down the left, Anderlecht were making Lille suffer. It was from the same channel that Mbark Boussoufa nearly produced a catastrophic fumble from Sylva, the custodian grabbing the ball at the second attempt.
At the other end, Odemwingie forced Zítka into a stop approaching the half-hour and Lille's counterattacking strategy nearly paid dividends when Yohan Cabaye hit Zítka's right-hand post with a low drive. There was no mistaking the team in charge, however, and after Sylva somehow denied the lively Boussoufa from point-blank range, Anderlecht finally went ahead through Pareja's arcing header from a right-wing cross four minutes before half-time.
They came out looking more vigorous than their French neighbours too, not least when right-back Anthony Vanden Borre turned inside Michel Bastos on the edge of the area and swung in a centre that Tchite nodded over. Odemwingie then managed to beat the Belgian champions' defence with a run into the box, yet his near-post attempt from a tight angle was never going to squirm past Zítka, and Lille were fortunate not to fall further behind when Boussoufa missed an open goal following Sylva's reflex save from Ahmed Hassan on 58 minutes.
Puel's response was to send on former Anderlecht forward Souleymane Youla and fellow attacker Fauvergue for Cabaye and Bastos. His double substitution so nearly proved to be a masterstroke when Fauvergue turned Matthieu Chalmé's pass on to a post moments after taking the field. Suddenly Lille had more purpose, but with Keita rattling the woodwork, it was looking like luck was not on their side. They eventually earned their reward, however, Fauvergue side-footing Keita's low delivery into the net with ten minutes remaining to score the first UEFA Champions League goal by a French club on this ground.