gerrard delivers knockout blow to om published: thursday 27 november 2008, 0.45cet
liverpool fc 1-0 olympique de marseille
steven gerrard scored his fifth goal of the group-stage campaign as rafael benítez's side eased into the last 16 of the uefa champions league.
by john mathews from anfield
steven gerrard headed the only goal against olympique de marseille to send liverpool fc into the last 16 of the uefa champions league for the fifth year in succession.
perfect record the liverpool captain struck for the fifth time in as many group d games to maintain rafael benítez's perfect qualification record since joining the club in 2004, and keep himself at the top of the competition scoring charts along with fc barcelona's lionel messi. liverpool and club atlético de madrid are both through with eleven points, while om and psv eindhoven have three apiece ahead of home ties against the frontrunners on matchday 6 when the pool placings will be decided.
headed opener gerrard recovered from a groin injury to reclaim his place in the side, and it did not take the midfielder long to make his formidable presence felt in a roving, attacking role. having scored twice when the reds beat marseille 2-1 in france on matchday 1, the english international was at it again, stooping to head xabi alonso's curling cross firmly past steve mandanda in the 23rd minute. the ligue 1 club required a victory to stay in the competition, and made resolute attempts to keep themselves alive.
positive response a raking long-range free-kick from full-back taye taiwo had pepe reina scrambling down at his left-hand post to tip it away. the spain goalkeeper was less impressive in dealing with the resulting corner as he flapped at the ball and missed, but defender ronald zubar could not capitalise as his downward header finished up just wide.
wing worries with half-time approaching, hatem ben arfa weaved his way down the left wing, causing liverpool genuine concern before snatching at his shot and reina gathered comfortably. at the other end, mandanda did well to palm albert riera's drive away to safety as liverpool went into the interval on top, fully determined to stay there. naturally, the visitors wanted something to say about that, and mamadou niang posed a real threat to the home back line after the restart with a series of promising breaks, none with an end product.
marseille impress the mediterranean side looked the stronger of the two teams as the second half wore on. the impressive ben arfa brought the best out of reina with a fantastic curling free-kick from the edge of the penalty area which had seemed destined for the top corner. liverpool were well-equipped at the back to deal with such necessities, snuffing out a stream of swift counterattacks, although a marseille goal would not have been undeserved. however, for all their toil, erik gerets's men could not break through as the game petered out and they must match psv's result when they welcome atlético to france in two weeks' time to hold on to third place and move into the uefa cup.