Maybe Joe Cole just needed a fresh start…
Joe Cole supplied a magnificent assist after coming off the bench to set the seal on Lille’s 3-1 victory over 10-man Saint-Etienne on his Ligue 1 debut on Saturday.
Eden Hazard had threatened to eclipse Cole with a superb second-half brace, but the Englishman set up the third goal for Ludovic Obraniak with a brilliant dribble through the home defence in the closing stages.
“It was very, very good,” said Cole in a post-match interview with Canal+.
“I enjoyed playing with my team-mates. The way they play is very beautiful. (Hazard) is a very, very special player.”
Marseille meanwhile slumped to a 1-0 home loss to Rennes, for whom Jires Kembo-Ekoko fired home the only goal 14 minutes from time leaving Marseille on a meagre three points, just two off the foot of the table and winless from their opening five matches.
A second straight loss for the 2010 champions upped the pressure on coach Didier Deschamps ahead of a midweek Champions League meeting with Olympiakos while Rennes are joint fourth and only a point off the summit.
Lille had fallen behind in sorry fashion in the seventh minute, with David Rozehnal inadvertently guiding Fabien Lemoine’s low cross beyond his own goalkeeper Mickael Landreau.
The momentum tipped in favour of the visitors in the 35th minute, however, when Saint-Etienne right-back Loris Nery was shown a straight red card for a dangerous, ankle-high foul on Franck Beria.
Hazard equalised in the 54th minute, wriggling past a posse of defenders before beating goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier with the outside of his right foot.
Cole, a loan signing from Liverpool, replaced Dimitri Payet just after the hour, thereby becoming the first England international to play in France since Chris Waddle, Trevor Steven and Graham Rix in the 1991-92 season.
Hazard made sure that the former Chelsea man would not hog all the headlines, however, by driving into the Saint-Etienne area and firing home the winner with 17 minutes to play.
Cole’s flourish arrived in the 86th minute. Picking up possession in the centre of the pitch, he embarked on a slaloming run that took him past five players before cutting the ball back for Obraniak to slot home.
Victory took Lille up to second in the table, level on points with Toulouse.
Watch video highlights below: