After The Match 


Lille-Liverpool 1-0 (0-0)              11.3.10                            EL
Goals: Hazard (84)
Team: Reina, Johnson, Agger, Carragher, Insua, Mascherano, Lucas, Kuyt, Gerrard, Babel, Torres
Subs: Riera (Babel 73), El Zahr (Kuyt 88)
Not used: Cavalieri, Aquilani, Kyrgiakos, Ngog, Kelly
Yellow: Insua (63), Torres (67)     Toure (86), Aubameyang (88)
Red: None
Referee: Claus Bo Larsen (DEN)
Attendance: 18,000
Shots on target: 5-4
Shots off target: 4-3
Blocked shots: 1-7
Fouls conceded: 15-21
Corners: 4-3
Offsides: 3-2
Possession: 58.3-41.7
Yellow: 2-2

HEADLINES “It was an improvement from the last game."
Rafael Benitez
1303: Rafa trusts Torres to turn things around
1203: Lille boss eyes Anfield goal
1203: Mascherano: We can still go through
1203: What happened to the badge of goner?
1203: Benitez stays positive
          despite Liverpool FC setback

1103: Rafa's Reds hit a Hazard in Lille

Rafa trusts Torres
to turn things around

By Carl Markham - Irish Examiner

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is backing striker Fernando Torres to end his European goal drought and fire his side into the quarter-finals of
the Europa League.

The Spain international drew another blank in the 1-0 defeat in Lille on Thursday night, although that was partly due to the brilliance of goalkeeper Mickael Landreau.

Landreau produced a superb low save from Torres’ six-yard header just before half-time to keep the clean sheet which meant Eden Hazard’s 85th-minute free-kick was enough to secure victory.

Torres’ record in European competition is nowhere close to matching his domestic form. In 30 Champions League and Europa League appearances he has scored 10 times.

He has not found the net in Europe since the 3-1 Champions League quarter-final defeat by Chelsea at Anfield on April 8.

And you have to go back to his debut season with Liverpool for his last goal on foreign soil — which was the Champions League last-16 second-leg winner against Inter Milan in the San Siro on March 11 2008.

That compares unfavourably with his incredible Barclays Premier League haul of 51 goals in 75 matches.

A knee operation in January sidelined him for six weeks and the 25-year-old is still not fully match-fit.

However, Benitez was pleased with Torres’ performance in Lille and believes could well prove to be the key figure as they attempt to overturn a one-goal deficit when the French club visit Anfield next Thursday.

"It was really important to see Fernando fighting from the beginning because it sent a very good message to the other players," said the Liverpool manager.

"He was doing well in Lille but it was difficult for him because they have pace, are comfortable in possession and going forward are a threat — so we had to defend.

"You cannot defend against a team with this pace too high because they will get men behind but you cannot defend too deep because they have ability. So for our defenders to defend and then go and support Fernando was not easy."

Benitez also defended his star striker after another 90 minutes of frustration eventually resulted in him being booked for complaining once too often to referee Claus Bo Larsen.

"It is not easy for him. There were too many fouls and too many decisions," said the Spaniard.

"I don’t want to talk too much about this because it wasn’t the difference but with so many referees (the Europa League have two additional assistants at either end of the pitch) I think they should do better sometimes."

Benitez expects his team to have to do all the running in the return leg at Anfield as he believes Lille will be less offensively-minded with a 1-0 lead to protect.

"I think they will wait, try to play counter-attack because they know they have pace," he said.

"We know a clean sheet will be important for us but to score one, two or three goals will be necessary."

Lille boss eyes Anfield goal

By Jamie Casey - Sky Sports

Lille coach Rudi Garcia believes his side will have to score at Anfield if they are to knock Liverpool out of the Europa League.

The French side heaped further misery on the Reds' shambolic season with a 1-0 first-leg last-16 win in Europe's secondary club competition at the Metropole Stadium on Thursday.

Garcia insists, though, that his team is not set up to defend for a draw and he admits they will travel to England in search of a goal to help their quest towards the quarter-finals.

"We are not a team set to play for 0-0. I believe we will have to score to get through," Garcia told L'Equipe.

"The most important thing was to keep our chances of qualification after the first match, and that result has to give us some trust."

Garcia admits his side allowed Liverpool chances to take something away from the game, but hailed goalkeeper Mickael Landreau for keeping the Reds out with a number of vital stops.

"We played without any complex," he added. "Liverpool put a lot of defensive intensity. We had to take care of the counter-attacks and we did it well, even if they had some dangerous opportunities.

"But we had a great keeper. We would be wrong to not believe in a possible feat against a big European team."

Garcia is wary of the threat Rafa Benitez's side are capable of and has pinpointed their woeful form this term with key duo Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres missing chunks of action.

"Liverpool is a great team of Europe," said Garcia. "We know they were a little less as good this season in the absence of Gerrard and Torres."

Highly-rated goal hero Eden Hazard grabbed the only goal of the game as his free-kick delivery evaded everyone in the box to creep in at Pepe Reina's far post.

The Belgian teenager admits his good fortune with the goal, and backs his manager's opinion that the French side must find the back of the net at Anfield.

He said: "I was lucky. But I hope my goal will remain indelibly printed - if we can get qualification. During the return leg we will have to play fast and score at least one goal."

Mascherano: We can still go through


Javier Mascherano is confident the chances they created in their Europa League defeat to Lille proves Liverpool can turn the tie around.

Confidence in the squad has taken a blow after a woeful performance in losing to Wigan on Monday and although they lost 1-0 in northern France it was a much-improved display.

In many ways conceding in the Stade Lille Metropole - which was almost an inevitability considering Les Dogues had found the net in all-but one of their last 21 matches at home - makes little difference to next week's second leg.

Eden Hazard's 85th-minute free-kick means Liverpool have to score if they want to progress and Mascherano insists that is far from beyond them.

"We have a chance to come back at Anfield so I think I am confident we can do it," said the Argentina captain.

"I think it was totally different game to the one at Wigan. The team was working very hard and we didn't deserve to lose.

"Against Wigan we did not play well and did not create chances.

"But it is Europe. We conceded a foul and he took a good free-kick and it was a good goal for them.

"The pitch was not the best in Lille but it was the same for them so it is not an excuse.

"But I will repeat, it is half-time and we have a chance to change things at Anfield.

"We created a lot of chances but couldn't score. The most important thing was we had the chances.

"Hopefully we can score at Anfield. We have done it before and we can do it again."

The situation has similarities with when Liverpool faced their first French opponents in Europe - St Etienne - back in 1977 when they trailed 1-0 heading after their European Cup quarter-final first leg.

A now legendary night at Anfield saw substitute David Fairclough snatch a goal six minutes from time to beat the French champions 3-1 for a 3-2 aggregate scoreline.

On that occasion they went on to be crowned European champions for the first of what turned out to be five occasions.

The prize is not half as glamorous this time around but how Benitez, his players and the fans would welcome a repeat performance.

What happened to
the badge of goner?

By David Prentice - Liverpool Echo

There was something missing at Liverpool’s Europa League match last night – and I don’t mean an aerial challenge at a set-piece – again!

Eagle-eyed Echo reader Anthony Howarth contacted us to ask why Liverpool haven’t worn their UEFA Badge of Honour against Unirea or Lille.

Like the stylish gold star sported on the chest of World Cup winners, the oval blue badge is a symbol of the highest European pedigree.

Only clubs who have won the European Cup three times in a row, or five times overall, are granted the privilege of being able to wear the Badge of Honour.

But Liverpool’s has been missing in their three Europa League ties to date.

Are the Reds embarrassed to be playing in Europe’s second tier tournament?

Have the players come out in a rash with the colour blue being so close to their skin?

Or have the badges simply come off in the wash?

After all, Ajax wore their badge in their Europa League ties against Juventus this season, while AC Milan and Bayern Munich wore their badges with pride in last season’s UEFA Cup.

But a Reds spokesman has explained that Liverpool are playing it strictly by the book.

“We asked UEFA about the badge and were told it was a European Cup/Champions League badge of honour, and as such should not be worn in the Europa League,” he said.

“We can’t speak for Ajax’s decision or any other clubs, but we’re following the rules.”

So there you have it.

Liverpool will only sport the UEFA Badge of Honour in Champions League matches.

There’s an awful lot of Reds fans out there praying we get to see that little blue badge again in September...

Benitez stays positive
despite Liverpool FC setback

Liverpool Echo

Rafa Benitez insists his side can still progress in the Europa League despite a 1-0 defeat in their last 16 first leg against Lille.

Winger Eden Hazard curled an 85th-minute free-kick over the Liverpool defence and past a static Jose Reina inside the far post just when it seemed the visitors had weathered the storm.

But it could have been far worse had substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s shot not hit the post and gone wide late on.

Benitez had called for his players to show Monday’s defeat to Wigan had been an aberration and he felt they had done that.

“It was an improvement from the last game. The players’ reaction has been very positive,” said the Reds boss. “I am disappointed with the result but really pleased with the effort of the players. They were fantastic today.

“It was against a good team on a difficult pitch. The reaction has been good.

“I think Lille started really well. We knew they had pace – you can watch videos but until you see them on the pitch you don’t see the pace they have.

“It was difficult to stop them but little by little we had more control.

“When we had that control and were going forward we conceded the goal.”

And he added: “When you play away you have to score when you have chances. To score an early goal you can manage the game but we worked hard.

“To have two or three chances to score and then concede a free-kick, we have to be positive.”

Rafa's Reds hit a Hazard in Lille


Lille winger Eden Hazard's late goal inflicted a 1-0 defeat on Liverpool in the first leg of their Europa League last 16 clash in France.

The visitors appeared to have survived a testing examination by Les Dogues only for Hazard, who had been a threat all night, to curl in an 85th-minute free-kick.

Despite being territorially dominated Liverpool had the best two chances with Ryan Babel shooting too close to Mickael Landreau and Fernando Torres' header being brilliantly saved by the goalkeeper in the first half.

However, the scoreline was no real surprise as The Mastiffs, as Lille are known, had scored in 20 of their previous 21 games at the Lille Metropole.

Their impressive record has seen them lose just once at home in Ligue 1 since the opening day of the season on August 9, with only one defeat in 17 home European fixtures.

For Liverpool - unbeaten in France since a 1-0 Champions League defeat to Monaco in November 2004 - it was the worst possible result coming so soon on the back of a woeful performance at Wigan on Monday.

Their difficult task was outlined to them in the first minute as Lille came out in no mood to admire their more illustrious opponents as Yohan Cabaye forced Jose Reina into a save within 38 seconds.

One of the most intriguing battles was between winger Hazard and Emiliano Insua, who was destroyed on a regular basis by Wigan's Charles N'Zogbia.

The 19-year-old Belgian struck an early blow by skipping past his opponent and drilling a cross through the six-yard area but no team-mate was close enough to take advantage.

Lille were more Arsenal than Wigan in their approach - despite their heavily-sanded patchy pitch - and passed the ball around with ease to often leave their opponents chasing shadows.

However, for all their possession they looked like they were missing top scorer Gervinho, the Ivorian who was sidelined by injury.

Bizarrely, Liverpool had the best two chances of the first half.

Babel should have given the visitors the lead in the 26th minute after a neat exchange with Torres but shot too close to Mickael Landreau and the goalkeeper deflected the effort with his legs.

Hazard was proving Lille's best outlet and his cross saw Pierre-Alain Frau deflect a shot over after being pressured by Jamie Carragher.

Gerrard responded with a dipping 35-yard strike just over Landreau's crossbar before, in the 41st minute, Landreau produced a brilliant low save to repel Torres' close-range header from Johnson's deep cross.

Hazard had the ball in the net soon after half-time but was flagged offside.

Liverpool at least began the second half better than they had the first and six minutes after the restart Lucas volleyed Torres' headed flick-on wide.

Lille, by contrast, had lost some of their attacking verve as they were drawn into a more attritional contest unsuited to their style.

On the hour Babel had a fierce shot parried away by Landreau, before Insua was booked for a foul on Hazard as he threatened to break away.

Five minutes later Reina allowed a long-range shot from Frau slip through his fingers but fortunately for the Liverpool goalkeeper it ballooned behind for a corner.

Torres was then booked for his persistent complaints to referee Claus Bo Larsen.

Cabaye drilled a dipping strike inches over Reina's crossbar before he was replaced by Stephane Dumont, with Albert Riera coming on for Babel with 17 minutes remaining.

Hazard went down in the area under Carragher's challenge with seven minutes to go but Larsen waved away protests.

However, a minute later the winger made sure when he curled in a free-kick which missed everyone in front of Reina, who could only watch as the ball crept into the far corner.

And it could have been far worse had substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's shot not hit the post and gone wide.

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Thor Zakariassen ©