LOSC Lille Métropole won 2-0 at AC Milan to progress to the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League for the first time, as runners-up to the Rossoneri in Group H.
Lille's hopes of qualifying had suffered a seemingly fatal blow when they only drew 2-2 with RSC Anderlecht last time out, but the Belgian club did their French rivals a favour tonight by repeating that scoreline at home to AEK Athens FC, when an away win would have rendered Lille's famous victory meaningless. Peter Odemwingie and Kader Keita were on target for Claude Puel's side, who showed more enterprise than their illustrious hosts throughout.
Puel, the Lille coach, had urged his team not to come away from the match harbouring any regrets and, with that in mind, the visitors started positively. Keita dispossessed Kakha Kaladze after five minutes and teed up Odemwingie, who forced Zeljko Kalac into an instinctive save with a fierce strike from ten metres. But Kalac, deputising for the injured Dida, was not so sharp in dealing with Lille's next attack two minutes later. Mathieu Bodmer surprised him with a powerful shot from distance which the Australian could only palm one-handed into the path of Odemwingie, who volleyed in from close range.
Having wrested the advantage, Lille were content to let Milan, minus the creative skills of substitute Kaká, come at them, yet if anything it was the away side who looked the more likely scorers. On 20 minutes they almost did when Odemwingie broke clear down the left only to see his shot repelled by Kalac, and midway through the half, the giant custodian was almost caught out again when Keita chanced his arm from 30 metres. His low drive deflected off Kaladze and narrowly wide of the far post.
Milan's clearest chance before the interval came when Yoann Gourcuff twisted and turned in the area before finding Marco Borriello who collapsed appealing for a penalty. Lille's attempts were more direct, such as a curling free-kick from Yohan Cabaye which Kalac touched over the bar at full stretch soon after. Despite the early second-half introductions of Clarence Seedorf and Kaká, the Rossoneri struggled to cope with their well-organised opponents who threatened with every counterattack. Odemwingie was freed by Keita's exquisite through-ball in the 50th minute but fired straight at Kalac with the unmarked Bodmer screaming for the square pass.
Odemwingie was almost punished for his miss when Filippo Inzaghi headed Gourcuff's corner against the bar with an hour gone. No matter: the travelling supporters behind Grégory Malicki's goal found their voice as news of Anderlecht's second goal filtered through - a collective voice that became a roar when their team also took a two-goal lead on 67 minutes. The excellent Keita raced 40 metres with the ball, exchanged a one-two with Bodmer and delivered a cool right-footed finish to put the result beyond doubt. Not even a late AEK equaliser in Brussels could deny Lille the best European night in their history, and Cabaye found time to rattle the woodwork before the festivities really began.