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'France in the crosshairs'

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Chelsea and Liverpool take full points from French tests

Latest update : 2008-09-17

Chelsea rolled over a hapless Bordeaux side with an impressive 4-0 win at Stamford Bridge, while Liverpool had to curb stiff resistance from Marseille to secure a precious 2-1 away win in the first leg of the Champions League group stage.

Chelsea showed no signs of a Champions League hangover as Luiz Felipe Scolari's side thrashed Bordeaux 4-0 in their Group A opener on Tuesday.

Goals from Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka ensured Chelsea made a winning return to European action at Stamford Bridge just four months after their heart-breaking Champions League final defeat against Manchester United.

The painful memories of that penalty-shoot out loss, and three previous semi-final exits, are driving the Blues to go one better this season.

They were in devastating form here. Lampard opened the scoring and Cole marked his 50th European appearance with a rare headed goal before half-time. Late strikes from Malouda and Anelka put the seal on an emphatic performance.

The road to May's Rome final is certain to feature many tougher tests than this, but Scolari is entitled to feel his team have made a significant statement of intent to the rest of Europe.

Scolari insists he doesn't feel under pressure to win the Champions League, but the Brazilian's decision to name a full-strength side, ahead of Sunday's crucial showdown with Manchester United, suggested he knows success in Europe is essential to his job security.

This was Scolari's first taste of the Champions League and Bordeaux briefly threatened to spoil the party when Wendel flashed a long-range effort narrowly over Petr Cech's crossbar.

But Scolari's side are capable of carving open opposing defences in an instant and they made the breakthrough in the 14th minute with their first incisive attack.

Jose Bosingwa surged down the right in typically dynamic fashion and whipped in a precise cross towards Lampard, who timed his run perfectly to plant a header past Ulrich Rame.

It was a goal of ruthless simplicity and Chelsea, scenting the match could be killed off before half-time, went for the jugular. Anelka cut in from the left and forced Rame into action with a low strike.

John Terry went close with a header from Lampard's free-kick before Rame had to save sharply to stop Fernando's clearance deflecting into his own net.

A second goal looked inevitable and it duly arrived in the 30th minute.

Lampard turned provider this time as the diminutive Cole somehow out-jumped Bordeaux's two centre-backs to glance his team-mate's corner in at the near-post.

Laurent Blanc's team were a shambles at the back and Lampard should have made it three, but the England midfielder shot wide with only Rame to beat.

Bordeaux couldn't put a foot right and the sight of Marouane Chamakh falling face-first into the crowd after tripping over an advertising hoarding at the start of the second half summed up their plight.

With the United clash in mind, Chelsea were content to save their energy. They went through the motions for long periods and even allowed Bordeaux a rare sight of goal when Chamakh, back on his feet, shot past a post.

Scolari sent on Michael Ballack for his first appearance since the opening weekend of the season after recovering from an ankle injury.

Malouda capped the move of the match in the 82nd minute. Lampard's backheel reached John Obi Mikel and his pass gave Malouda the chance to a drive a low shot into the far corner of Rame's goal.

There was still time for Anelka to get on the scoresheet with a stoppage time tap-in after Juliano Belletti's shot had cannoned off the crossbar.
 

Liverpool struggles against Marseille

  
Steven Gerrard stole the show on his full return to the Liverpool side Tuesday with both goals to secure a 2-1 win in his side's opening Champions League Group D encounter at Marseille.

Coach Rafa Benitez's decision to put both Gerrard and Fernando Torres back in the starting line-up after injury - the former played only a cameo role in Saturday's win over arch-rivals Manchester United - was a sure sign Liverpool meant business as they recovered from an early deficit.

Gerrard - who took his tally to 99 for the club - said that it had been a pleasing performance - at least in the first-half.

"We played well in the first-half but then they pinned us back in the second-half," said Gerrard.

"We stopped playing in the second-half and we will have to have a look at that and see what the reason was."

In last season's corresponding fixture, Gerrard and Torres had killed off Marseille with a goal apiece in the opening 11 minutes of a 4-0 win that sent the five-times English champions through despite managing just one point from their three opening fixtures - including a home loss to Marseille.

This time the opening quarter brought no goals - but it was not for want of effort on either side, with Marseille's French international midfield star Hatem Ben Arfa proving almost as inspirational for the hosts as Gerrard was for the Reds.

In a frenetic opening Liverpool almost drew first blood with France 'keeper Steve Mandanda tipping over a towering Torres header on six minutes.

Marseille's riposte saw Bakari Kone find Mamadou Niang, who brought the ball down but then fired high of Pepe Reina's goal.

Liverpool stepped up the tempo and Dirk Kuyt fed Ryan Babel adroitly, but after a wonderful turn, the youngster lifted his shot just over.

But just as Liverpool had slipped into the ascendancy Marseille took the lead with skipper Lorik Cana beating the offside trap to fire low past Reina on 23 minutes after Benoit Cheyrou's pass had split a static defence.

Liverpool immediately regrouped, however, and levelled inside four minutes with a sublime finish from Gerrard, who in scoring here last December had netted his 23rd European goal to break Michael Owen's club record.

Torres and Kuyt swapped passes before Gerrard swept an unerring right-foot shot curling neatly inside Mandanda's right post.

Four minutes later and the visitors were ahead. 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.

Marseille reacted by sending on Mathieu Valbuena, whose goal settled last season's encounter at Anfield, for Modeste M'Bami shortly before the break.

Marseille switched things around thereafter with Ben Arfa, increasingly peripheral following his bright start, replaced by Karim Ziani on the hour.

As Marseille rallied, an acrobatic left-footer from Kone did not trouble Reina, who then did well to gather a Vitorino Hilton header on the line.

In a final flurry Ziani fired just over before Gerrard got the whistling treatment as he gave way to Yossi Benayoun.

Babel saw Mandanda block a point blank range shot and then hit the post as Liverpool, who sent on Robbie Keane for the last five minutes, finished strongly - though Reina still had to save at the death.

Date created : 2008-09-16

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