LIVERPOOL - England midfielder Steven Gerrard's first-half goal secured Liverpool's place in the last 16 of the Champions League as they beat Olympique Marseille 1-0 at Anfield. The Liverpool skipper scored with a far-post header in the 23rd minute from Xabi Alonso's deep cross to settle the Group D clash. Gerrard, who was hit by a cigarette lighter thrown from the section occupied by the French side's supporters later in the game, has now scored five goals in this season's Champions League, a feat only matched by Barcelona's Lionel Messi. "We know Gerrard is an offensive midfielder with a very good attacking quality and can score goals. We are pleased with him," Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez told reporters. Marseille failed to repeat the surprise 1-0 victory they recorded at Anfield last year that would have kept their hopes of qualification alive. The French side did create plenty of chances and, despite falling behind to Gerrard's header, they took the game to a Liverpool side unbeaten in eight ties in Europe. Defender Taye Taiwo had keeper Pepe Reina scrambling at the foot of his post to save in the opening half. Then after Mamadou Niang failed to make the most of a shooting chance, the Liverpool keeper produced the stop of the night to turn away Hatem Ben Arfa's fierce freekick. Despite the chances, Liverpool always looked capable of stepping up their game if Marseille, on a run of six defeats in seven away Champions League games, had managed to score. Liverpool and Atletico Madrid, who have also qualified for the knockout phase, have 11 points with one match remaining. Marseille will battle it out with PSV Eindhoven for a place in the UEFA Cup. Both sides have three points going into their final game, with Marseille hosting Atletico and PSV hosting Liverpool. "Our young players have learned a lot from playing in the Champions League this season," said Marseille coach Eric Gerets. "We have come to Liverpool and I was pleased with the way we played. But there is a difference between the really top class sides and the sides one step down. There is always a little thing lacking that makes that difference.
26 November 2008
Get FourFourTwo interviews, features and fun in your inbox every week. For free!
Thank you for registering for our Newsletter
We will send regular updates on the ongoing FourFourTwo updates to the email address you have supplied.