A late free-kick from teenager Eden Hazard handed LOSC Lille Métropole the initiative in their UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie against Liverpool FC.
The Belgian international's attempted cross from the left evaded everybody, Reds goalkeeper Pepe Reina included, before creeping inside the far post in the 84th minute. It proved the only goal of an even contest in which both sides created chances. Home goalkeeper Mickaël Landreau produced a fine performance to keep the English side at bay, although Lille also had cause for frustration after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck a post moments after Hazard's goal.
Rudi Garcia had promised an attacking display and the Ligue 1 side provided an electric start, Yohan Cabaye testing Reina inside the first minute. Yet despite the intelligent, darting runs of Hazard and Florent Balmont, Liverpool slowly got on top and began posing a genuine threat, Ryan Babel striking a low shot that was saved by Landreau on 26 minutes.
That was the first of three fine stops from Landreau before the interval, the former France international parrying a Steven Gerrard free-kick before reacting brilliantly to keep out Fernando Torres' point-blank header. The second half began in similar vein, Landreau making another athletic stop from Babel's powerful shot.
Yet Lille got a second wind and finished on top. Pierre-Alain Frau stung Reina's hands from 30 metres and Daniel Agger nearly turned Balmont's cross into his own net as the five-time European champions became stretched. Cabaye's 70th-minute drive flashed factionally over before another long-range effort, this time from Stéphane Dumont, kicked off the turf and struck Reina in the face.
Hazard then delivered the goal the hosts deserved to set up a frantic finish. Substitute Aubameyang almost doubled the lead after being played clear by Balmont, his volley hitting the outside of the post, before Landreau made one more stop to foil Gerrard in added time, ensuring his team travel to Anfield next Thursday with a slender advantage.
©UEFA.com 1998-2011. All rights reserved.