Liverpool slump to Europa League defeat at Lille

By Michael Owen

ryan babel

Going into tonight’s UEFA Europa League fixture against Liverpool, one wouldn’t have blamed Lille for sensing they could get something from the game – especially after the Reds’ disappointing display against relegation strugglers Wigan Athletic on Monday night.

But even taking the result at the DW into consideration, it was hard to see Lille walking out of the Metropole deserved winners.

A late goal from Eden Hazard secured a vital win for the home side which sees them take a 1-0 lead into the match against the five-time Champions of Europe at Anfield next week.

Liverpool will feel disappointed at the manner in which they conceded, with a less than threatening ball into the box allowed to head towards goal and eventually end up in the back of Pepe Reina’s net.

The Merseysiders were by no means walkovers, with the Reds’ defence looking visibly more solid following the return of Glen Johnson and the inclusion of Daniel Agger in the back line. However Benítez’s side’s improvement in their own half was not reflected in the final-third with only a handful of chances being created, the best being a close-range header from Fernando Torres which was brilliantly saved by Mickael Landreau in the Lille goal.

The inclusion of out-of-favour Ryan Babel will have been a surprising one for many Liverpool supporters, who have become accustomed to seeing the Dutch winger grace the bench week after week. Despite having two good efforts on goal the Dutchman’s overall performance was less than brilliant from a man looking to establish himself in Rafael Benítez’s starting eleven, often losing the ball and failing to make the kind of decisive pass Liverpool have been lacking all season.

Captain Steven Gerrard was lacklustre, staying relatively quiet throughout the game and only having one clear-cut effort on goal: a free-kick from just outside the box. Fernando Torres will also feel slightly disappointed with his display at the Metropole, though a lack of support gave the Spaniard little to work with in and around the box.

One positive Liverpool fans can take from the game is the return of Glen Johnson. His performance at the back was much-improved from some of his displays before he was ruled out with a knee injury and his creativity in the final third is something that Liverpool have been lacking for a number of weeks.

Liverpool have left themselves with it all to do in the second leg at Anfield, and if the three-time winners of the competition want to come out of the fixture with their name in the draw for the quarter-final, they will need to considerably improve their performance going forward.

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