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LOSC Lille Métropole and Valencia CF had substitutes to thank as they opened UEFA Europa League Group B with an entertaining 1-1 draw in northern France.
After both sides had gone close, Juan Mata finally broke the deadlock in the 78th minute having been on the pitch for barely 60 seconds. However, Lille coach Rudi Garcia saw his own tactical switches pay dividends, with Gervinho levelling with four minutes left to ensure Les Dogues remain unbeaten in Europe this season.
Valencia coach Unai Emery opted to rest some of his first-choice XI, giving Joaquín the chance to impress and he provided Nikola Žigić with an early opening which brought a fine stop from former Valencia goalkeeper Ludovic Butelle, before the Spanish international thundered a drive off the bar from an acute angle. Stuttering in Ligue 1, Lille have been far more effective in Europe, and could have gone in front when Eden Hazard and Ludovic Obraniak combined to release Robert Vittek behind a static Valencia rearguard, but the Slovakian international proved indecisive with just César Sánchez to beat.
The half-time break did little to halt Lille's momentum with Obraniak forcing César into a full-length stop with a low drive, though the hosts almost undid their own good work on 65 minutes. Emerson's backward header totally wrong-footed Butelle and Adil Rami had to spectacularly hook the ball to safety with Žigić poised to head into the empty net.
It was the flurry of substitutions in the closing stages that finally saw the stalemate broken. The alert Žigić found Joaquín, and his surging run and delicate pass allowed Mata to lift the ball into the net with his first touch. It was a cruel blow for Lille, who equalised in fortuitous circumstances. Bruno's miscued clearance ricocheted off Rio Mavuba and into the path of Gervinho, who coolly slotted the ball under César to earn a deserved share of the spoils.
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