The LOSC Lille Métropole players were keen to draw comfort from their spirited second-half performance against Sporting Clube de Portugal, despite failing to grab an equaliser in a frantic finale in northern France.
Goals from Simon Vukčević and Hélder Postiga put the Portuguese visitors in a strong position at the break, only for Pierre-Alain Frau to hit back for Les Dogues and set up a tantalising finish. Looking to extend an eight-match unbeaten run at home in Europe, Rudi Garcia's men poured forward with urgency in the last 30 minutes of the Group C encounter but could not find the final touch they needed to secure a point. Skipper Rio Mavuba was left ruing the Ligue 1 side's slow start.
"It's disappointing because we lost the match in the first half," the 26-year-old midfielder told UEFA.com. "Sporting were so clinical for the goals. They scored the first on the counterattack after we had a corner, and the second one was perfectly taken. They hurt us but the encouraging thing is that we didn't give in."
Garcia's decision to unleash substitutes Emerson and Eden Hazard before the interval galvanised the home team, and Hazard's shot, which was only half-stopped by goalkeeper Tiago, enabled Frau to pull one back. Ludovic Obraniak, Frau and Florent Balmont all squandered opportunities to equalise, however, as Lille's night ended in frustration.
Like Mavuba, Balmont was encouraged by Lille's refusal to lie down. "A lot of teams would have thrown in the towel at 2-0 but we kept on fighting and that shows the spirit we have," the former OGC Nice midfielder said. "We pushed really hard at the end of the first half, and put them under lots of pressure after the break. We're obviously disappointed to lose but we feel like we're getting better and better at the moment. The [4-1] win at Lens last weekend was encouraging and tonight showed again that we are gaining strength."
Lille reached the last 32 of last season's UEFA Europa League but have left themselves with work to do if they are to repeat that feat after Thursday's defeat. Playmaker Yohan Cabaye, who came on in the second half, hopes for a positive reaction away to KAA Gent on 30 September. "It's so important to pick up points early in a mini-league," said the 24-year-old youth product. "We're annoyed we have lost at home but we must pick ourselves up quickly and try to get three points at Gent."
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