Gerrard (pen) 9, Torres 49, 90
A good win which on the face of it looked easy, however, Lille gave us some nervous moments especially towards the end of the game. However to our credit, in period where so often we have conceded, we were professional, saw it out and even, through increasingly potent Fernando Torres, managed to put it beyond reach.
Team wise it was no surprise that Albert Reira didn’t feature – the post is nearly written and will be published on Saturday I’ve just got to edit out the swear words! Aquilani stayed in with his rug, chest rub and throat lozenges. Lucas and Kuyt returned meaning that it was same starting eleven for the first leg. I suspect Aquilani’s absence forced Rafa’s hand over Lucas. However any thoughts about the usual caution were soon stopped as Lucas risked a nose bleed by pushing much further forward than we are used to seeing him do.
We began cautiously, the only chance of note being a shot from Babel. However, and perhaps when we weren’t expecting it, we got the break we wanted and at the right time. After only eight minutes we saw a nice intricate move involving Lucas, Insua and Babel on the left. Lucas then rushed on leaving two men in his wake (am I really saying this) and was felled by the third in the box. Gerrard made no mistake for the spot to ensure the perfect start.
Buoyed by the goal perhaps it would have been tempting to tear into Lille? However if they were to score the tie would shift significantly in their favour so we kept our composure and concentrated on stopping them from having the space they had in the first leg while trying to build up our own passing rhythm. This nearly paid off when Agger’s back header, from Gerrard’s corner, caused Lille’s keeper to desperately scramble about on his line to collect the ball with Kuyt looming. Later the trick was repeated from the other side however this time the ball cleared the bar.
In between Lille, who had to attack now, gave us a warning about complacently. Hazard bombed through the defence and suddenly found himself in a one on one situation with Reina. His shot hit the keeper, although he can claim no credit for the save, and thankfully looped over the goal.
As the half progressed Lille came more into the game and won plenty of corners and free kicks which, given our record of conceding from set pieces, game us a few worries. This continued into the second half with a good penetrating run into our area by Mavuba, Carragher’s tackle had to be accurate and clean, it was.
When in doubt hit it out they say and as Lille pressed Daniel Agger resorted to such a tactic. Little did he know that his punt would land at the feet of Torres. He avoided the challenges from a napping Lille defence by simply adopting the tactic of putting himself between ball and players and lofting it gently over Landreau into the goal, easy, basic but vital stuff. After his we probed the Lille goal and were unlucky not the kill the tie off. Torres missed a couple and Kuyt was just offside from a nice Gerrard ball from a free kick. However, Lille continued to pitch in with the odd threat. This time Aubameyang, in an excellent position but perhaps off side, spooned over the bar.
I have to say as the game went on the more tense it became, the clock appeared stuck! It was almost as if we were expecting Lille to come at us. Tiredness and nerves saw the fluidity of the first half disappear. Only Reina looked confident snaffling out a number of fairly innocuous Lille efforts. Perhaps the best form of defence was attack and two quick fire efforts from Kuyt subscribed to this giving Lille something else to think about rather than just getting back into the tie. However they were soon on to us again, pressing and pressing and as we pulled more men back inviting them on to us. Clearances became more desperate and the crowd became quieter. Thankfully, just as you thought something dreadful was bound to happen , it was over.
Gerrard broke into the Lille box drifted past a defender. His shot was charged down but Torres was on hand to collect and lift it over the keeper again to ease worried minds in the stand, and perhaps more significantly (for now) on the bench.
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Agger (Kyrgiakos 90+1), Insua, Carragher, Gerrard, Mascherano, Lucas, Torres (Ngog 90+2), Kuyt, Babel (Benayoun 80) Substitutes: Cavalieri, Kyrgiakos, Degen, Kelly, Benayoun, Ngog, El Zhar
Lille: Landreau, Emerson, Beria, Rami, Balmont (Aubameyang 71), Cabaye, Obraniak, Chedjou, Fongang, Mavuba, Hazard (Vandam 86), Frau (Toure 58) Substitutes: Butelle, Vandam, Souare, Dumont, Souquet, Aubameyang, Toure