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Lille will Kop it at Anfield: Rafa

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was left to rue missed opportunities in the 1-0 Europa League last 16 defeat in Lille but has backed his side to turn things around in next week's second leg.

Having weathered the early storm from the hosts, both Ryan Babel and Fernando Torres had good chances to put their side ahead before half-time despite them struggling for possession.

Babel shot too close to Mickael Landreau having exchanged passes with Torres, who himself saw a header denied by a brilliant low save from the goalkeeper.

But just when it looked as though Liverpool would become only the second side in 22 matches to keep a clean sheet at the Stade Lille Metropole winger Eden Hazard curled an 85th-minute free-kick over the Liverpool defence, past a static Jose Reina and inside the far post.

And the tie would have had a completely different complexion had substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's late shot rebounded in off the post and not behind for a goal-kick.

"When you play away you have to score when you have chances," said Benitez.

"We had two or three good chances and, particularly in this competition, you have to score away because it is an advantage.

"But there is still 90 minutes to play and we will have to play well at Anfield and do our job. I am confident we can beat anyone at Anfield on our day with the fans behind us."

Benitez apportioned no blame to Reina for the goal as Hazard's inswinging effort could easily have been headed in by a Lille player or taken a deflection off a defender.

"It was a good delivery and very difficult for the keeper," said the Spaniard, who admitted he was pleased to see an improved performance after the disastrous defeat at Wigan on Monday.

Benitez added: "The players' reaction has been very positive.

"I am disappointed with the result but really pleased with the effort of the players. They were fantastic."

Liverpool face a huge seven days next week as they face Premier League bottom side Portsmouth on Monday and Lille on Thursday before travelling to Manchester United the following Sunday.


But Benitez said he would not attach additional importance to any one fixture as, effectively, his side had to win every match between now and the end of the campaign if they are to salvage something from a disappointing year.

"For every top side, especially when you are not having a good season, every game is important," he added.

"We have to be ready for Monday's Premier League match against Portsmouth and to win and then be ready for 90 minutes in the Europa League."

Lille coach Rudi Garcia felt his side were worthy winners but wants them to finish the job at Anfield.

"I think we deserved to win. I am satisfied with what we showed and we will do everything we can to qualify," he said.

"But we will need to score in the second leg, we can't go there and play for a 0-0."