RSC Anderlecht are out of the UEFA Champions League despite two fantastic Mbo Mpenza equalisers against an LOSC Lille Métropole team who now require a result at AC Milan to stand a chance of joining the Rossoneri in the knockout rounds.
Mpenza, back from injury, levelled late in the first half following Peter Odemwingie's opener and struck again seconds after Nicolas Fauvergue had restored Lille's lead. With AEK Athens FC defeating Milan 1-0 in the other Group H fixture, Lille have fallen a point behind the Greek side and must at least draw in Italy on Matchday 6, when Anderlecht will be hoping to earn a place in the UEFA Cup.
With so much at stake, it was unfortunate that conditions hampered both teams' passing games. Driving rain had left the pitch in Lens looking far from its usual immaculate UEFA Champions League state, but the noise from the sell-out crowd left little doubt about the scale of the event. And it was the visiting contingent who had the first reason to cheer, when Bart Goor arrowed in a dangerous cross from the left that Lille goalkeeper Tony Sylva cut off low down.
The home side soon posed a threat of their own, however, with Odemwingie steering an effort just wide on the turn, following typically lively work from Kader Keita. But as good as that chance was, Ahmed Hassan perhaps ought to have put the Belgian champions in front when he found himself alone in front of goal after 15 minutes. Instead, his weak strike was gratefully scooped up by Sylva.
That may have been just the wake-up call Claude Puel's men needed, because 12 minutes later they broke the deadlock, Fauvergue pouncing on Olivier Deschacht's goalline error to pick out Odemwingie with a low cutback. The Nigerian forward calmly angled his drive well to the left of Davy Schollen for his first goal since 9 September.
If Lille believed their opponents would simply roll over, though, they were in for a shock seven minutes before half-time when Mpenza latched on to Lucas Biglia's through-ball and scored in off the post via Sylva's gloves. Both teams were vibrant now, and within three minutes of the restart they had each scored again, first with Fauvergue volleying into the corner from the edge of the area after his initial attempt was blocked by Goor.
The home advantage was cancelled out even quicker this time, as Mpenza ridiculed all the doubts surrounding his fitness by bursting into the box and slipping the ball beneath Sylva for his second. Puel was understandably furious, and his mood was not helped when Fauvergue lobbed against the crossbar after Schollen had recklessly spilled the ball into the youngster's path. Following up, Odemwingie's header was deflected wide by a defender.
Late red card
At the other end, Mohamed Tchite tested Sylva with a hopeful attempt from wide on the left, yet Lille were gradually setting up camp in the Anderlecht half. As a result Franky Vercauteren sent on Mbark Boussoufa in place of Mpenza, though try as they did, neither side could deliver the final blow.