FCK produce a ‘Lille’ surprise in Parken

An early penalty save boosted FC Copenhagen as they beat their French opponents in the first leg of their final Champions League qualification hurdle

When FC Copenhagen drew French outfit Lille in the Champions League qualification finale, sporting director Carsten V Jensen said that it was the worst possible opponent that the Danish runners-up could have hoped for. But after last night’s 1-0 victory in Parken, FCK have every chance of progressing.

Lille had sold two of their main players over the summer – Eden Hazard to Chelsea and Moussa Sow to Fenerbahce – but you wouldn’t have known it in the opening period, which was dominated by the French favourites.

Their early control of the game should have paid off after just 14 minutes when FCK’s Costa Rican left-winger Bryan Oviedo clumsily brought down Lille’s new signee from Chelsea, Salomon Kalou, in the penalty box.

But keeper Johan Wiland showed his class by saving Dimitri Payet’s penalty and suddenly the French squad looked deflated as FCK took over the reins.

With Thomas Kristensen bossing the midfield in his best ever game for the Danes, FCK began creating some chances, with Caesar Santin almost getting on the end of a brilliant Oviedo cross.

But there was no stopping the little Brazilian striker after 38 minutes as he rose to head home off the post following some good work by Lars Jacobsen on the right flank.

Following the break, FCK pulled back and tried to play a more counter-attacking game, which led to Lille enjoying several chances, all of which Wiland handled with ease.

And when coach Ariël Jacobs signalled for his troops to once again pressure the French defenders, one could sense that it would be FCK’s night. Fifteen minutes later, the ref blew his whistle for the last time, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.

Lille is sure to bounce back and come out blazing at next week's return leg in France, but getting the win while preventing the French from scoring an invaluable away goal put FCK in a very desirable position. But despite the impressive result, Jacobs knows it will be a different match next Wednesday.

“We have to savour it today. I expect that Lille will begin the next match as they did the second half today,” Jacobs told Tipsbladet newspaper. “They will put pressure on us but I also think we will get some space and it will be up to us to utilise it.”

Following next week's match, the aggregate winner will progress to the revered Champions League group stage.

There was more good news for FCK yesterday as well, as they completed the signing of 20 year-old Belgian striker Igor Vetokele, who they've purchased from Cercle Brugge.

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