Champions League – Gerrard the difference as Reds win

Steven Gerrard scored a wonder-goal and a penalty as Liverpool beat Marseille 2-1 at Stade Velodrome in Group D of the Champions League. Lorik Cana put the hosts ahead, with all three goals scored in the first half. In the group’s other match, Atletico Madrid eased to a 3-0 win at PSV Eindhoven.

FOOTBALL 2008-2009 Champions League Marseille-Liverpool Steven Gerrard - 0

An entertaining match between Liverpool and Marseille was played at breakneck speed, and countless chances at both ends meant neither side really deserved to lose.

Gerrard’s equaliser, however, was good enough to win any game, while Mamadou Niang‘s profligacy was arguably worth a defeat.

Niang missed five great chances, before and after the three-goal cluster that decided the match, with two coming in the closing minutes.

Meanwhile, Gerrard – recently recovered from the operation that saw him miss England‘s 4-1 rout of Croatia – swung a first-time, 26th-minute shot from the right-hand side of the area that flew past a helpless Steve Mandana into the top-left corner.

Only three minutes earlier, Albania midfielder and OM captain Cana sprung Liverpool’s offside trap to finish Benoit Cheyrou’s clever chipped pass, a fine move that exposed Jamie Carragher’s lack of pace relative to his defensive colleagues.

That was midway through the first half, and Marseille’s lead turned to a deficit on 32 minutes when the impressive Ryan Babel was brought down by a clumsy challenge from Ronald Zubar.

Gerrard was forced to take the spot-kick twice, but both times he sent Mandana the wrong way and the ball into the bottom right for a lead which Liverpool would hold for the remaining hour.

At no point did either side have the upper hand as they traded chances at will.

Babel was particularly impressive with his direct running and willingness to shoot. He sent an early drive a whisker over the bar, forced a wonderful point-blank save from Mandana and hit the woodwork – and they were the clearest-cut of many self-made half-chances.

Fernando Torres – who was heavily involved in Gerrard’s first but had a quiet game by his standards – saw one header saved and another somehow scoop over the bar, while Gerrard was denied a hat-trick by Mandana and Zubar.

Niang and substitute Karim Ziani both should have secured a point for Eric Gerets’s side, and Niang’s misses on 89 and 91 minutes could prove vital in the shake-up at the end of the group stages.

Liverpool lie second in the group after Atletico comfortably beat PSV at the Philips Stadion in their first Champions League match in 11 years.

Javier Aguirre’s men dominated the match from the start with Argentina striker Sergio Aguero scoring twice in the first half to give them a comfortable lead at half-time.

PSV never troubled the visitors and were restricted to long-range efforts, with Argentine keeper Leo Franco in fine form for Los Rojiblancos.

Atletico settled the match nine minutes into the second half when Maniche added a third goal to put his team ahead of Liverpool on goal difference.

Reda Maher / Eurosport

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