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Page last updated at 21:37 GMT, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Liverpool 1-0 Marseille

By Phil McNulty

Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard salutes the crowd after putting Liverpool ahead

Steven Gerrard's first-half goal sent Liverpool into the Champions League knockout stage with an unconvincing win against Marseille at Anfield.

Gerrard headed in at the far post from Xabi Alonso's cross after 23 minutes.

It was the highlight of a poor Liverpool display, with Marseille dominating possession for long periods.

Taye Taiwo had a long-range shot turned on to the post by Pepe Reina before the break, and Liverpool's keeper also saved superbly from Hatem Ben Arfa.

Liverpool now enter their final game of this section, away to PSV Eindhoven, battling with Atletico Madrid to finish top of Group D.

Rafael Benitez's side have made patchy progress to the last 16, but they have followed a similar path in the past and still navigated their way through to the final stages of the tournament.

Gerrard was restored to Liverpool's line-up after missing England's win in Germany and a goalless draw with Fulham at Anfield with a groin injury.

Dirk Kuyt had an opportunity to give Liverpool the lead after 21 minutes when Fernando Torres provided a perfect cross, but his header was saved at the second attempt by keeper Steve Mandanda.

It was only a temporary reprieve for Marseille, with Gerrard putting Liverpool in front two minutes later. He stole in unmarked on the end of Alonso's ball to the far post to head powerfully beyond the helpless Mandanda.

Marseille were stringing some impressive passing moves together without delivering an end product, but they gave Liverpool a scare after 35 minutes when Reina touched Taiwo's long-range shot on to the post.

Ronaldo Zubar then headed the resulting corner wastefully wide when he was left unchallenged at the far post.

Marseille more than matched Liverpool in the second half, with the gifted Ben Arfa a real threat.

He fired a dangerous cross just beyond Benoit Cheyrou then forced Reina into a stunning finger-tip save from an angled free-kick.

Liverpool were desperately out of sorts and Mamadou Niang wasted an opportunity with 10 minutes left, heading off target when well placed.

But Liverpool's defence, superbly marshalled once more by Jamie Carragher, held out and can now concentrate on topping the group and avoiding some potentially hazardous opposition in the last 16.

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio (Dossena 46), Mascherano, Alonso, Kuyt (Leiva Lucas 85), Gerrard, Riera (Benayoun 63), Torres.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Keane, Babel, Kelly.

Booked: Mascherano.

Goals: Gerrard 23.

Marseille: Mandanda, Bonnart (Samassa 89), Zubar, Hilton, Taiwo, Ziani, Cana, Cheyrou, Ben Arfa, Niang, Kone (Valbuena 78).
Subs Not Used: Riou, Rodriguez, Zenden, Kabore, Grandin.

Booked: Niang.

Att: 40,024

Ref: Olegario Benquerenca (Portugal).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match on 90 minutes: Liverpool's Steven Gerrard - 8.11 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

see also
Benitez relieved at 'scary' win
26 Nov 08 |  Liverpool
Champions League as it happened
26 Nov 08 |  Europe
Champions League photos
26 Nov 08 |  Football
Liverpool 0-1 Marseille
03 Oct 07 |  Europe

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Telegraph Gerrard returns to seal safe passage - 25 mins ago
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Telegraph Liverpool 0 Fulham 0 - 23 Nov 2008