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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 October 2007, 20:38 GMT 21:38 UK
Liverpool 0-1 Marseille
By Paul Fletcher

Mathieu Valbuena celebrates scoring for Marseille
Valbuena's strike sealed a deserved win for Marseille
Mathieu Valbuena scored a brilliant goal as Marseille beat an out-of-sorts Liverpool in the Champions League.

Valbuena's 20-yard strike after 77 minutes left Pepe Reina stranded and clipped the woodwork on its way in.

Mamadou Niang, who had several shots saved, was harshly flagged offside in a move that ended with Karim Ziani putting the ball in the net.

A Yossi Benayoun header was deflected wide and Fernando Torres hit the post as Liverpool rallied after conceding.

But it was a performance that was woefully below the required standard by Liverpool, who rarely threatened until the final minutes of the match.

Rafael Benitez's side now have one point from their first two Champions League group games after their draw in Porto - and the manager has some serious issues to address.


But it was a brilliant start to Eric Gerets' career as Marseille coach, with his team casting aside their poor league form to win their second successive game of the Champions League group stage.

It might have been different had Liverpool opened the scoring after three minutes but Torres wasted an inviting position with a heavy first touch that allowed Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda to clear the danger.

Marseille soon started to work the ball across the wet, crisp surface with a style and confidence that belied their position of 17th in the French league.

Karim Ziani advanced down the right after Fabio Aurelio lost possession and played a slide-rule pass that Niang struck low and hard from a tight angle, forcing Reina to make a decent save.

Laurent Bonnart was later allowed far too much time to deliver a cross that Cana headed over the crossbar, while the Reds needed the aid of an unwarranted offside flag after 34 minutes to remain on level terms.

Liverpool, in contrast, lacked fluency and cohesion after Benitez made five changes from the team that defeated Wigan in the Premier League on Saturday.

There was little sign of 'the real Steven Gerrard' that Benitez wanted to see, while the atmosphere inside Anfield was unusually subdued.

Niang forced Reina into action after the break with a strike from 20 yards and then with a well-struck low free-kick.

Gerrard tried to lift his team with a long-range effort but he was wide of Mandanda's goal.

Andriy Voronin replaced Aurelio and Drik Kuyt came on for Peter Crouch as Benitez continued to search for the winning formula but it was the French side who continued to show greater flair and incision in attack.

And they were rewarded when Marseille worked the ball to Valbuena after Mohamed Sissoko was caught in possession.

The French midfielder had time to pick his spot and did so brilliantly, curling the bar into the top corner.

Sami Hyypia headed wide as Liverpool rallied, while Benayoun should have done better with a far-post header that was deflected wide.

Mandanda made a good smothering save but the ball broke free, however Torres' strike hit the post as Liverpool's late rally failed to produce an equaliser.

  • Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez on whether his team's rotation policy was to blame for the defeat:
    "You can talk about team selection, and we have been talking about big names.

    "But those big names did not play well from the start.

    "It was a poor game for us, we did not play well and we did not make many chances. It was clearly not our day.

    "To get through in this competition you need wins. Draws are not enough.

    "We now know that we must win our next match away to Besiktas."

  • Marseille manager Eric Gerets:
    "We were not expected to win this one, but we felt if we took the initiative and tried to attack, it would be a good tactic.

    "We tried to get men forward and that is what brought us this victory."

    Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Aurelio (Voronin 70), Benayoun, Gerrard, Sissoko, Leto (Riise 52), Torres, Crouch (Kuyt 75).
    Subs Not Used: Itandje, Arbeloa, Babel, Mascherano.

    Booked: Gerrard, Sissoko, Carragher.

    Marseille: Mandanda, Bonnart, Rodriguez, Givet, Taiwo, Cana, Cheyrou, Valbuena (Oruma 83), Ziani, Zenden (Arrache 87), Niang (Cisse 70).
    Subs Not Used: Hamel, Zubar, M'Bami, Moussilou.

    Goals: Valbuena 77.

    Att: 41,355

    Ref: Konrad Plautz (Austria).

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