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Reds sunk by Hazard but Rafa content

LILLE (1) vs LIVERPOOL (0)

LIVERPOOL boss Rafael Benitez insisted he was pleased with his players despite seeing them beaten for the second time in four days.

The Reds face an uphill challenge to progress to the quarter-finals after Eden Hazard’s late strike condemned them to a first-leg defeat in northern France. Liverpool found themselves under pressure for much of the match and missed good chances, which fell to Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel, to score an away goal.

It was hardly the riposte Benitez had demanded on Monday after his side were sunk by Wigan, but the Spaniard refused to criticise his players again.

“I think it was an improvement,” he said. “The reaction has been very positive. I am disappointed with the result, but really pleased with the effort of the players. 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 set out to attack, testing Pepe Reina in the first minute, with 19-year-old winger Hazard a constant menace. Against the run of play, however, Liverpool had the best openings before half-time, Babel shooting too close to Mickael Landreau, who then kept out a close-range Torres header.

The hosts were not to be denied, though, and Hazard scored in the 85th minute when his free-kick evaded everyone and crept past Reina.