LIVERPOOL (AFP) Liverpool will take a slender 1-0 lead to Turkey after a Ryan Babel goal earned Roy Hodgsons side a narrow victory over Trabzonspor in the Europa League play-off first leg at Anfield on Thursday. But it could have been so much better for the hosts as Joe Cole suffered another moment to forget for his new club. Former Chelsea midfielder Cole followed up his red card against Arsenal last Sunday with a glaring second half miss from the penalty spot. With Liverpool leading 1-0, Cole was presented with a golden chance to open his goal account for his new club after Brazilian Lucas had been fouled by Serkan Balci. But the England international looked on in horror after blasting his 52nd minute spot kick straight at keeper Onur Kivrak. Fortunately, Babel, starting ahead of Fernando Torres and David Ngog, had already given the hosts the lead on the stroke of half time. Hodgson rested Steven Gerrard and Christian Poulsen started ahead of want-away midfielder Javier Mascherano. It was defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos who almost broke the deadlock in the fifth minute. Only a flying save by Kivrak prevented the Greek international from marking his first anniversary at Anfield with his second goal for the club after he rose to meet Maxi Rodriguezs corner. However, it soon became evident that Trabzonspor had not come just to make up the numbers as they tested the Liverpool defence on the counter-attack. Colombian marksman Teofilo Gutierrez - five goals in his previous two outings - showed why he is a player in form with some neat touches on the edge of the Liverpool area. But with Kyrgiakos and Carragher patrolling the edge of the area, keeper Jose Reina did not have a serious save to make before half-time. Cole, who starts a three-match league ban next week, looked eager to atone for the red card against Arsenal that ruined his Premier League debut for his new club. In a first half of few chances, Cole caused the visitors defence more problems than Babel until the latter struck in the dying seconds of the first half. There was no doubt that Liverpool missed set-piece specialist Gerrard. Groans could be heard when Fabio Aurelios 25-yard free-kick flew harmlessly over the bar midway through the first half. Indeed one of the biggest cheers of the half was reserved for Torres as he warmed up in front of the Kop before Burak Yilmaz went close to giving the Turkish visitors a vital away goal five minutes before the interval from a free-kick. But Liverpool snatched the lead deep into first half stoppage time as Coles beautifully weighted pass paved the way for Babel to produce a composed finish from an angle. That was Babels final contribution. He failed to appear at the start of the second half as Torres was given 45 minutes to sharpen up his match fitness. And the Spain international striker immediately forced a fine save from Kivrak inside a minute of coming on. Liverpool were firing on all cylinders and Lucas made up for a glaring miss earlier in the game by winning his side a penalty in the 51st minute after being chopped down by Serkan Balci. Cole immediately stepped forward but missed the perfect chance to open his Anfield goal account by firing straight at Kivrak in front of the Kop. Balotelli makes flying start to Man City career Mario Balotelli got his Manchester City career off to a flying start as he scored the only goal in their 1-0 win over Timisoara in Romania in the first leg of their Europa League play-off. Balotelli, who joined City from Inter Milan last week for around 29 million euros, started on the bench before coming on as a 57th minute substitute for Gareth Barry. In the 72nd minute, moments after Yaya Toure had hit the post, Balotelli capitalised on some fine work by Emmanuel Adebayor to fire the ball into the top corner. He went on to pick up a yellow card as City got an important away win. There was good news for the other English teams in action as well with Ryan Babels goal on the stroke of half-time giving Liverpool a 1-0 win over Turkeys Trabzonspor. Roy Hodgsons side should have had more but Christian Poulsen had a goal disallowed and Joe Cole missed a penalty. Aston Villa shrugged off the recent departures of coach Martin ONeill and star midfielder James Milner to grab a useful 1-1 draw against Rapid Vienna in Austria. Villa made an excellent start when winger Marc Albrighton crossed for Barry Bannan to tap home from close range in the 12th minute. The home side hit back though to level just after the half hour when Atdhe Nuhiu glanced in Steffen Hofmans cross. Scottish sides had a mixed evening. Celtic took a valuable 2-0 lead from their first leg game against Utrecht in Glasgow. The Bhoys opened the scoring in the 19th minute through Mexican midfielder Efrain Juarez before Greece striker Giorgos Samaras fired in the second in the 34th. Neil Lennons team were unable to add any more after the break but will be happy to have a handy cushion heading back to the Netherlands. The two other Scottish sides in action both lost, however. Dundee United were beaten 1-0 at home by Greek side AEK Athens - Algerian striker Raffik Djebbour netting the only goal of the game - while a late effort from Tom Hately threw Motherwell a lifeline as they went down 2-1 at Odense in Denmark. Veteran German midfielder Michael Ballack made his first appearance for new club Bayer Leverkusen since his summer move from Chelsea. Coming on in the second half, Ballack, who missed the World Cup because of an ankle injury, scored from the penalty spot in Leverkusens comfortable 3-0 win over the Ukrainians of Simferopol. Juventus needed a last gasp winner from Amauri to sneak a 2-1 win at Sturm Graz in Austria. French Cup winners Paris St Germain cruised to a 2-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv while Lille were held to a goalless draw at Romanian side Vaslui. Russian side Sibir Novosibirsk collected a notable scalp as they beat PSV Eindhoven 1-0. Both sides were down to 10 men by half time with the winner coming two minutes into added time at the end of the game through Aleksandr Degtyarev. Another Russian side CSKA Moscow all but booked their passage to the group stage with a 4-0 home win over Cypriot outfit Anorthosis Famagusta.