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Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is confident his side can still progress in the Europa League despite losing 1-0 to Lille in the first leg of their last 16 encounter.

Benitez had called for a reaction from his players following Monday’s disappointing defeat to Wigan and he felt his players had responded.

“It was an improvement from the last game. The players’ reaction has been very positive,” said Benitez.

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

“It was against a good team on a difficult pitch. The reaction has been good.

“I think Lille started really well. We knew they had pace – you can watch videos but until you see them on the pitch you don’t see the pace they have.

“It was difficult to stop them but little by little we had more control.

“When we had that control and were going forward we conceded the goal.”

Despite being on the backfoot for much of the game Liverpool could easily have been 2-0 up at half-time after Ryan Babel and Fernando Torres were both denied by Lille keeper Mickael Landreau.

“When you play away you have to score when you have chances. To score an early goal you can manage the game but we worked hard today,” added Benitez.

“To have two or three chances to score and then concede a [goal to a] free-kick…we have to be positive.

“It is clear, particularly in this competition, you have to score away because it is an advantage.

“We were just not strong enough today but there is still 90 minutes to play.

“I am confident we can beat anyone at Anfield on our day with the fans behind us.

“In every top side, especially when you are not having a good season, every game is important.

“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 deserved to win.

“In European competitions winning 1-0 is always a good result,” said Garcia.

“But Liverpool still managed to create some opportunities and we had a goalkeeper who made two or three really great saves.

“I think we deserved to win tonight. I am satisfied with what we showed and we will do everything we can to qualify.

“To beat Liverpool, who were the favourites when the draw was made, is good.

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

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