LILLE, FRANCE (AFP) – Lille were held to a goalless draw at home against a resurgent Saint-Etienne early yesterday just days before attempting to overturn a 2-0 deficit against holders Chelsea in the last 16 of the Champions League.
The reigning French champions also suffered a blow with the exit of Portugal midfielder Renato Sanches with a left thigh injury midway through the first half.
Lacking ideas and inspiration the northeners never managed to worry Saint Etienne goalkeeper Paul Bernardoni at their Pierre-Mauroy Stadium where they host Chelsea in the last 16, second leg next Wednesday (March 17, 4am Brunei time).
“We didn’t manage to take the game in hand and get the crowd behind us,” said Lille coach Jocelyn Gourvennec.
“We weren’t very inspired. They were well organised and we did things badly. We didn’t win the game even if we have two big chances. But it’s too little for a home game.”
Gourvennec conceded he was worried about the possible absence of Sanches against Chelsea.
“We missed him tonight, he’s a player who sets the pace, who is able to organise the game, to direct it. We’ll do tests tomorrow (Saturday), I hope it’s not too serious. It seems compromised for Wednesday but I’m waiting for the results.”
Lille missed the chance to move up to fifth and into the European berths, and are sixth, just one point ahead of Nantes who travel to Troyes this Weekend.
Saint Etienne, meanwhile, grabbed a precious point in their fight against relegation, moving into 16th place, two points ahead of Lorient, who travel to Clermont on today (10pm Brunei time).
Lille striker Hatem Ben Arfa failed to fire for the hosts as Pascal Dupraz’s players posed problems for the defence.
The hosts proved wasteful with Mehmet Celik hitting the post before the break.
Amadou Onana, who replaced Sanches, failed to make the most of a scoring chance after the interval after Jonathan David launched a quick counter-attack with the Belgian midfielder missing a header off a perfect Gabriel Gudmundsson cross.
Lille had only two shots on target throughout the game, enough to worry Gourvennec before next week’s clash against Chelsea.