UCL 08: Fabulous Gerrard Sinks Marseille

Dev AshishAnalyst ISeptember 16, 2008

In the opening encounter of Group D clash between Liverpool and Marseilles, Steven Gerrard’s fabulous double helped Liverpool secure three points from the match. Gerrard – who took his tally to 99 goals in Europe – and Torres were named in the starting lineup after being sidelined with injury and it was a sure sign that Liverpool meant business from the word go.
In the frenzied opening moments, Torres almost scored at six minutes but France ‘keeper Steve Madanda was up to the task.

Marseilles almost immediately replied with Mamadou Niang firing it over the post.
Liverpool immediately upped the tempo with Dirk Kuyt feeding Ryan Babel, who after a wonderful turn lifted the shot a tad high. However, Marseilles skipper Lorik Cana beat the offside trap, shooting low past Reina to send his team into the lead at 23 minutes, leaving Liverpool aghast.

But almost as always when Liverpool are down, Steven Gerrard never fails to inspire and that’s exactly what he did at 26 minutes when he blasted a right footed curling ball into the net leaving ‘keeper Madanda  a helpless spectator. Four minutes later, Ronald Zubar tripped Babel as the Dutchman cut in from the left hand side of the box and Austrian referee Konrad Plautz immediately pointed to the spot.
Plautz then complained the ball was not on the spot before making Gerrard take the kick twice after Kuyt intruded into the box. Unfazed, the Liverpool skipper coolly tucked the ball away the second time, as he had the first, sending Mandanda the wrong way to take his competition haul to 27.

Marseilles switched things quickly with Mathieu Valbuena, whose goal settled last season's encounter at Anfield, for Modeste M'Bami shortly before the break and Hatem Ben Arfa, increasingly peripheral following his bright start, replaced by Karim Ziani. Pepe Reina did excellent in holding on to a Vitorino Hilton header on the line.

Marseilles rallied but Liverpool held their guard and maintained their lead. After the match, Steven Gerrard commented, “We played well in the first-half but then they pinned us back in the second-half. We stopped playing in the second-half and we will have to have a look at that and see what the reason was."

Benitez echoed fellow perfectionist Gerrard's own admission afterwards that "He played well - but he could have played better." Benitez added: "The first game is really important (but) three points now is a good position. The key was to score a third goal and finish them off but we couldn't and we were under a bit of pressure at the end.