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LOSC Lille Métropole captain Rio Mavuba said beating Liverpool FC in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie represented "a proud moment" for the Ligue 1 club.
Eden Hazard's 84th-minute free-kick ensured Lille will take a one-goal lead across the English Channel next Thursday as they bid to reach the quarter-finals for the first time. It was the least Rudi Garcia's side deserved after a rousing second-half display that left Mavuba singing the team's praises. "We're very proud because we've beaten one of the biggest teams in Europe," he told UEFA.com. "It's a good result, although it could have been even better had we scored a second at the end when [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang hit the post.
"Liverpool played pretty well in the first half but Mickaël Landreau made the saves we needed him to make," Mavuba continued. "After that we improved and overall we deserved this win. They have some great players – Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres are world class – but we tried to get stuck in and not allow them to play. This win is a reward for the whole group. It was another excellent collective effort."
Both sides created openings in a fluctuating encounter yet it looked as though the goalkeepers would finish on top as both Landreau and Pepe Reina made a string of interventions. Hazard found a way past the Liverpool No1, though, arrowing in a set piece from the left that failed to find a team-mate and crept inside the far post.
"It was a little fortunate," the 19-year-old Hazard said. "Usually Yohan Cabaye or Ludovic Obraniak take them, but they'd gone off so the coach said 'leave the free-kicks for Eden'. It was intended as a cross but no one touched it and the ball went in. We got the breaks tonight and hopefully we'll get them over there as well."
Had it not been for the outstanding Landreau, Liverpool would have returned with at least one away goal to their credit after a battling performance. The manner of the defeat left Javier Mascherano optimistic ahead of the return despite the result coming hot on the heels of Monday's 1-0 Premier League loss to Wigan Athletic FC.
"It was a very hard game but I'm confident we can still do it at Anfield," the Argentina midfielder said. "This was different [to the defeat at Wigan]. The team worked really hard and we didn't deserve to lose. We're only at half-time and we're capable of coming back. Although we didn't score, we created chances and that's important. I expect us to have more chances in the second leg."
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