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Midfielder Rio Mavuba told uefa.com he was impressed by the spirited LOSC Lille Métropole performance which earned his side a 1-1 draw with Valencia CF in their UEFA Europa League opener on Thursday.
The Spanish visitors extended their unbeaten run to 13 games in European competition but were denied a victory with which to start Group B after Mavuba unwittingly set up Gervinho to give his side a deserved point when Valencia defender Bruno's clearance struck him in the face four minutes from time. "It came off my eye and my nose," laughed Mavuba, whose intervention helped cancel out Juan Mata's 78th-minute opener for the visitors. "We played really well. The draw was fair, though we could have won it if we'd opened the scoring. They are a good side. They can make the difference with a moment of individual brilliance. They had a really good goalkeeper, but we had the strength to get ourselves back into it."
Mavuba and Gervinho were both left out of the starting line-up with coach Rudi Garcia having one eye on this weekend's Ligue 1 derby with northern rivals RC Lens. However, the Lille boss was rewarded with a determined display from his shuffled pack, and Mavuba believes the performance bodes well for the remainder of the season. "We can count on everyone, and when we have that sort of mental strength, we can do anything," said the French international.
He acknowledged the boost given to the squad by last weekend's first league victory of the campaign – 1-0 against FC Sochaux-Montbéliard. "This evening, you saw the effect of that victory, which gave us confidence," he said. "But in the league, like this evening, we had a problem in front of goal, and didn't take our chances. We created opportunities, but couldn't score. Our performance can also be explained by the quality of our opponents – we managed to raise ourselves to match Valencia."
'Far as possible'
A trip to SK Slavia Praha now awaits Mavuba and his team-mates, and while the 25-year-old stressed the importance of lifting Lille away from the bottom rungs of the domestic ladder, he also insisted the UEFA Europa League remains a major objective. "The priority is the league as we're in a difficult position, but we want to go as far as possible," he said. "We're going to give the maximum in each game, and try to get some results away from home. If we can go into the final match with a chance that would be great."
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