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Liverpool have taken three points from their Champions League opener in Marseille after a Steven Gerrard brace secured a 2-1 win.

Just as against United at the weekend, Rafa Benitez's side had to come from behind after Lorik Cana sent the Stade Velodrome wild on 23 minutes.

A spectacular hit from Gerrard levelled things up almost immediately before Ryan Babel won a penalty, which the skipper converted to take his career tally to 99.

Liverpool, who remain the only English side to win in the Stade Velodrome, went into the game buoyed by the return to the starting XI of Gerrard and Fernando Torres, the latter coming in for Robbie Keane. Another absence was the sponsor from Liverpool's shirt, which fell victim to French advertising laws.

No Carlsberg then, but those Kopites who made the trip doubtless needed a drink after eight incredible minutes in the first half when three goals were tallied.

Even before the scoreboard went into overdrive, both sides had carved out countless chances.

Liverpool were first to threaten thanks to Torres, who skipped past Ronald Zubar on five minutes to win a corner. He then met Gerrard's in-swinger with an agile flick of the head to send the ball narrowly over.

Babel, too, looked on it, taking a pass from countryman Dirk Kuyt with a sublime touch which took him beyond his marker. Sadly, the finish didn't match up.

Shortly after Kuyt combined with Alvaro Arbeloa before teeing up Gerrard, whose low shot was saved well by Steve Mandanda.

Not that the Marseille opener came out of the blue. Even before Cana's cool finish, strike partner Mamadou Niang confronted Pepe Reina's goal only to blast over.

Bakary Kone, too, would have considered himself unfortunate not to get more from the referee after Andrea Dossena's clumsy defending on the edge of the box.

It was not as if Liverpool hadn't been warned, then, when the excellent Benoit Cheyrou - brother of Bruno - unwrapped our backline on 23 minutes with an inch-perfect throughball to Cana, who looked one way, then the other, before slotting past Reina.

If the visitors were stunned, they didn't show it, and within eight minutes they were in the lead.

The equaliser came on 26 minutes when Torres robbed the Marseille midfield and fed Kuyt, who wasted no time cutting inside to the skipper.

What followed from there can only be described as audacious as Gerrard shot when it didn't seem possible then watched haughtily as his effort dipped over Steve Mandanda into the corner of the net. Genius.

Five minutes later Gerrard was again on target, this time from the spot after Babel's trickery forced the referee to blow his whistle.

The match had been turned on its head, and it was perhaps no surprise that it took until the early stages of the second half to catch its breath.

Marseille were enjoying a period of dominance when, on 58 minutes, Kone threatened with a acrobatic volley which swerved just the wrong side of Reina's post.

Next Vitorino Hilton forced Reina into a decent save with a close range header from a corner.

Liverpool, who swapped Torres for Albert Riera on 65 minutes, were restricted to counter attack football.

Gerrard also made way on 69 minutes, ending his hopes of a European hat-trick which would have seen him reach 100 goals for the Reds. On his form in the Stade Velodrome, it's worth a bet he'll hit the landmark against Stoke on Saturday.

Back in France, and Babel should have put the game beyond Marseille's reach on 76 minutes when Riera weaved past his man before sending a low ball across goal. The Dutchman looked to smash into the roof of the net but his effort was just low enough for Mandanda to make a brave stop.

Babel hit the post minutes later, while at the other end Niang headed wide in the dying moments when it seemed easier to score.

This was one of two late opportunities for the striker, the other being saved superbly by Reina.

Thankfully Liverpool were not made to rue missed chances and they now host PSV in two weeks' time holding a commanding position in Group D.


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