RC Lens defeated Bayer 04 Leverkusen 2-1 at Stade Félix-Bollaert to establish a slender advantage in their UEFA Cup last-16 tie.
Leverkusen defender Karim Haggui looked to have earned the visitors a fine result when he cancelled out Olivier Monterrubio's first-half goal with a firm header on 50 minutes. But the Tunisian undid his good work by giving away a penalty, dispatched by Daniel Cousin, and picking up a second yellow card. The ten men of Leverkusen avoided further damage in the last 20 minutes and remain in contention for the second leg on 14 March.
Lens started nervously and could easily have conceded inside the first five minutes. Yohan Demont was caught in possession by Tranquillo Barnetta and the Swiss international threaded a pass through for Sergej Barbarez, but his cutback failed to find Andriy Voronin. Simon Rolfes then headed Bernd Schneider's free-kick wide as the German outfit began strongly.
With the visitors adopting an attack-minded approach the game flowed nicely but it was Lens who struck first on 17 minutes, Monterrubio racing on to Vitorino Hilton's pass and striking a sweet lob over René Adler. Leverkusen remained a threat, however, and came close to equalising before the break, Voronin shooting narrowly wide.
The pressure on the Lens goal increased after the interval, with goalkeeper Charles Itandje producing a fine save to keep out Voronin's header, only for Haggui to score moments later. The former RC Strasbourg defender rose unopposed at the near post to nod in Gonzalo Castro's corner.
On the spot
Haggui's evening turned sour when he was dismissed after bringing down Monterrubio on 70 minutes, allowing Cousin to calmly slot home from the spot. Les Sang et Or pressed forward in search of a third, and substitute Issam Jemaa might have scored had his goal-bound effort not struck his team-mate Aruna Dindane, while Hilton fired narrowly wide in the dying seconds.
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