Sporting end Lille's unbeaten record
© AFP

A pair of first-half goals were enough for Sporting Lisbon to begin their UEFA Europa League campaign with victory at Lille.

The French side had been unbeaten in their previous eight home European fixtures but they were in trouble after Simon Vukcevic and Helder Postiga both struck for Sporting in the opening half. Lille improved dramatically after the break but while Pierre-Alain Frau pulled a goal back Sporting held on bravely thanks to some impressive work from their goalkeeper Tiago.

Sporting's success was their first on French soil and made all the more laudable as they were without suspended striker Liedson as well as the injured quartet of Maniche, Pedro Mendes, Leandro Grimi and Marat Izmailov.

Sporting had already threatened through Fernando Abel and Postiga before they went ahead with 11 minutes played. Abel started a quick counter-attack down the right flank and his cross was helped on for Vukcevic to fire home at the far post.

Lille's first shot on target did not arrive until the 27th minute when Ludovic Obraniak headed a cross from Florent Balmont wide. The miss began a good period for the hosts, albeit without a goal, as Gervinho forced Tiago into a save before Adil Rami shot wide after an Obraniak corner.

Sporting's chances were few but they showed their cutting edge as Postiga scored their second with a header after 34 minutes. Abel managed to loft in a teasing cross which the Portugal international emphatically headed home.

Lille were left with plenty of work to do to preserve their recent unbeaten home record and they were thwarted by visiting goalkeeper Tiago on more than once occasion. Tiago kept out Mathieu Debuchy's stinging drive just before the break, then after 55 minutes he made a fantastic save to deny Balmont who had driven in from the right.

The goalkeeper was at fault, however, for Lille's goal after 57 minutes. He failed to hold onto Eden Hazard's 20-yard shot and Frau stole in to halve the deficit. Lille pushed for an equaliser with a well-struck Obraniak shot deflected wide before Tiago held on to a speculative Yohan Cabaye effort. Tiago then preserved the win for his side with time ticking down when he tipped Rami's right-footed attempt from the centre of the area around the post.