Liverpool woes continue at Lille

Eden Hazard scored a late freekick to give Lille a 1-0 win over Liverpool in the first leg of a Europa League last-16 match on Thursday.

Having earlier had a goal ruled out for offside midway through the second half, the 19-year-old Hazard scored in the 84th minute with a curling freekick from the left which bounced in front of goalkeeper Pepe Reina and went past him.

Lille could have added a second goal in the closing stages but substitute striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the post from close range with Reina beaten.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard broke through in the last seconds but his shot was deflected just wide for a corner.

"Winning 1-0 at home in Europe is a pretty good result. We knew Liverpool could create chances but our goalkeeper (Mickael Landreau) was decisive at the right times," Lille coach Rudi Garcia said. "Nothing is done yet, (but) our chances of qualifying are intact."

Garcia says Lille will not sit back and defend its lead at Anfield next week.

"I think that we will need to score over there as we are not used to playing for a 0-0 draw," he said. "I am satisfied with how my team played tonight. I would also like to praise our defense for the way it kept (Fernando) Torres quiet."

Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez hopes his side’s fans can roar the team to success in the second leg.

"I have confidence we can beat anyone on a good day at Anfield. The fans will play a part, they will push and will be behind the team," Benitez said. "Lille are a good side, with good players and they are dangerous. We will play a difficult game at Anfield but have confidence we can beat them."

Lille midfielder Yohan Cabaye shot straight at Reina after just 10 seconds, and then Hazard skipped down the right but no one was there to turn in his cross as Lille started brightly against the five-time European Cup winner.

Liverpool created its first chance midway through the first half when Ryan Babel swapped passes with Torres down the right and his shot from just inside the penalty area was saved by Landreau.

Shortly before halftime, Landreau kept out Gerrard’s freekick and then dived low to his right to save a firm downward header from Torres. But Liverpool struggled to create further chances.

Hazard, one of Europe’s most highly rated young players, fooled Liverpool’s midfield with a great piece of skill near the end of the first half, dragging the ball on his foot and spinning round before running at the heart of Liverpool’s defense, but his shot was too weak to trouble Reina.

After a quiet start to the second half, Babel tried his luck from wide out left but Landreau palmed his shot away.

Lille striker Pierre-Alain Frau turned neatly from 30 yards and almost caught Reina by surprise but the Spain goalie managed to punch his fierce shot away, while Cabaye came close with a dipping shot from similar range in the 70th.

Reina then spilled substitute Stephane Dumont’s shot and just grabbed the ball before Frau could turn it in as Lille got on top.

Liverpool slipped to its second straight 1-0 defeat after losing to Wigan in the Premier League on Monday.