TSV Alemannia Aachen earned a narrow UEFA Cup victory at home to LOSC Lille Métropole in Cologne as an Erik Meijer header midway through the second half secured three Group H points.
The Aachen captain nodded in a clever cross from Simon Rolfes after Lille goalkeeper Tony Sylva had failed to clear. Both sides had further chances, mainly from some excellent set-pieces, but the German second division side preserved their slender lead until the final whistle.
Aachen welcomed back Wilfried Landgraf and Cristian Fiel after bouts of flu, while Lille had to do without midfield player Mathieu Chalmé, who sustained a facial injury in the recent Ligue 1 victory against SC Bastia. After four minutes, however, the German side nearly took the lead as Landgraf launched a dangerous long throw into the penalty area which Meijer neatly flicked on and Kai Michalke flashed a shot wide from a tight angle.
Ten minutes later, a corner swung in by Aachen winger Sergio Pinto was met well by Stefan Blank, but the German defender failed to generate enough power to trouble Lille goalkeeper Sylva. The Senagalese, who had conceded only once in the previous six games, was in entertaining form moments later. After confidently rounding Meijer metres from the goalline, he then completely misjudged a cross, nearly allowing Moses Sichone a chance.
Dieter Hecking's side began the second half as they had the first, pressing the visitors back and putting Sylva under increased pressure. The goalkeeper looked unsure as another Pinto corner stretched the Lille defence and was saved by substitute Milivoje Vitakic, who bundled Meijer's header off the line. Sylva's unconvincing punch contributed directly to Aachen taking the lead in the 67th minute, Rolfes crossing for Meijer to head in at the back post.
The home team kept up the pressure on the Lille defence, and nearly increased their lead from two well-struck free-kicks. First Blank forced Sylva into a diving save from fully 40 metres, then left-back Alexander Klitzpera struck a shot round the wall, but the ball curled just wide of the target.
Despite their pressure, the home side were reduced to some desperate defending in the closing moments, with Greek defender Efstathios Tavlaridis nearly squeezing the ball in for a dramatic late equaliser. Aachen held firm, however, and now look forward to playing Sevilla FC on Matchday 2 while Lille will seek to bounce back at home to FC Zenit St. Peterburg, also on 4 November.