It was meant to be the easiest home game out of the three, but in the end a very abject performance from Lille handed the impressive BATE Borisov their first ever win in the Champions League. The second half performance will give Lille coach Rudi Garcia hope, but over the 90 minutes the better team won and 3-1 in no way flattered the Belarusian side. Lille have a long journey ahead of them this season.
There weren’t any surprises from Rudi Garcia in the starting XI. Mathieu Debuchy kept his place in the back four, with Lucas Digne playing on the opposite flank. Rio Mavuba, Florent Balmont and Marvin Martin made up the midfield trio and upfront Tulio de Melo was flanked by Dimitri Payet and Salomon Kalou who was back in the team after serving his suspension in the league.
Lille started on the front foot and Salomon Kalou had the first chance but has shot was too close to Andrey Gorbunov and the ‘keeper easily turned it over. The Grand Stade Lille Metropole was soon shocked into silence after only six minutes when both Aurelien Chedjou and Marko Basa failed to close down Aliaksandr Volodko and the midfielder unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner and past Mickael Landreau. Not the start Rudi Garcia had hoped for.
As soon as the home side had caught their breath they were 2-0 down. A wonderful free flowing move between Aleksandr Hleb and Aleksandr Pavlov cut through the Lille defence and Vitali Rodionov although he was clearly offside finished off the move. A goal that shouldn’t have counted but one that was well deserved, the home side lacked any imagination, desire and the urgency needed to take it to teams in the Champions League.
Les Dogues tried to get back into the match, but without a creative spark and a BATE defence that was very well organised any attack was limited to shots from outside the box that were either blocked or miles away from troubling Gorbunov. As the frustration began to grow, so did the scoreline. Lille’s defence failed to clear the ball properly and Volodkov played in the unmarked Edgar Olekhnovich and he curled the ball past Landreau and put the game beyond the home side.
It was another awful display of defending from the defensive pair of Aurelien Chedjou and Marko Basa, for the second two goals Chedjou was caught in no-mans land, nowhere near his man, or any man and deservedly BATE were three goals to the good.
Very interesting that Chedjou revealed that during the half-time break Rudi Garcia said that anyone who wasn’t ready to play the second half should say so, and that’s why Nolan Roux and Ryan Mendes came on. Take from that what you will, it doesn’t bode well for Tulio de Melo and Marvin Martin. Sunday’s team selection against Lyon will be very interesting.
You have to give Lille some credit for the second half display. The inclusion of Mendes added a spark to the midfield and finally the tempo increased and Lille looked dangerous going forward. Of course BATE were being cautious but Lille looked like the team that the home fans were expecting to see in the first half.
Chedjou got a goal back from Payet’s corner, heading the ball off the underside of the crossbar, the ball just crossed the line and the referee signalled for a goal. With 30 minutes remaining there was a slight chance of a comeback, but BATE defended superbly and rarely gave Lille a clear sight at goal. The Belarusians would hold on and pick up their first ever three points in the Champions League. Lille now haven’t won at home in the last four games in this competition, and with Bayern Munich and Valencia to come to Northern France you have to worry for their chances.
The pace and power and belief that have been associated with Lille for the past two years seems to be a very distant memory at the moment. Every move is very predictable, the little moment of inspiration has gone, too quickly they are settling for long range efforts. The only positive to take was the performance of Mendes, he looked unpredictable and exciting, and it wouldn’t be surprising after tonight’s events to see him start against Lyon on Sunday.
An awful night for Lille in the Champions League, a fantastic evening for BATE Borisov, the better team in the end won, it is going to take an absolute miracle for Rudi Garcia’s men to come second in this group now, even third is looking a long way away at the moment. It can only get better can’t it?
Report by Andrew Gibney @AGibneyftbl