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Lille thrill but Gent make their point

KAA Gent 1-1 LOSC Lille Métropole
Stijn De Smet and Pierre-Alain Frau traded goals as both sides claimed their first points in UEFA Europa League Group C.

Pierre-Alain Frau rejoices after earning Lille a draw in Belgium
Pierre-Alain Frau rejoices after earning Lille a draw in Belgium ©Getty Images

KAA Gent and LOSC Lille Métropole picked up their first point in UEFA Europa League Group C after a pulsating 1-1 draw in Belgium.

Both goals came in the first half of a contest that should have witnessed much more activity on the scoresheet. Stijn De Smet's quick thinking gave Francky Dury's hosts a sixth-minute lead but Rudi Garcia's men were worthy of the point sealed by Pierre-Alain Frau's 21st-minute leveller.

The opening half-hour was as open as anything likely to be witnessed in the UEFA Europa League this season, doubtless sparked by De Smet's early strike. The forward reacted sharper than the Lille defence to latch onto Randall Azofeifa's quick free-kick before holding off Idrissa Gueye and forcing a finish past Mickaël Landreau.

The visitors' response was a succession of chances with Frau converting arguably the hardest when he surged forward, cut inside Mario Barić and curled in a delightful equaliser. The 30-year-old should have doubled his haul after an exchange of passes with Eden Hazard – who then poked another glorious chance wide.

Gent remained positive and should have regained the lead when Tim Smolders' through ball released Yassine El Ghanassy, only for the promising forward to round Landreau and fire against the upright. The second half was always going to struggle to match the end-to-end nature of the first but Frau spurned the opportunity to open up the contest further when he blazed over after 53 minutes.

Gervinho was introduced to provide a catalyst for Les Dogues and he drew a spectacular save from Bojan Jorgačević to keep the encounter all square. Florent Balmont drove low at the goalkeeper after linking with Yohan Cabaye while Gervinho was again denied by the Serbian custodian after cruising past Stef Wils. Substitute Zlatan Ljubijankič struck a post and Landreau flung himself to thwart Azofeifa as the Buffalos made a late charge.