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By Jonathan Caswell at Anfield
Didier Drogba's second-half strike has given Olympique de Marseille the edge after a tight UEFA Cup fourth-round first-leg tie at Anfield against Liverpool FC.
Baroš strikes first
The English side had taken the lead through Milan Baroš ten minutes into the second half, but Marseille fought back doggedly and got the reward their spirited performance deserved through Drogba's 79th-minute equaliser.
A scrappy opening period was dominated by defences on both sides as Marseille packed the midfield. Strikers Michael Owen and Drogba were well marshalled and the on-loan Manchester United FC goalkeeper Fabien Barthez was predictably given a hard time by the Liverpool supporters every time he touched the ball.
The best chance of the half fell to Owen on 24 minutes. Crisp passing and movement by Steven Gerrard and Danny Murphy opened the Marseille defence before Harry Kewell rolled the ball to Owen in the centre only for the England striker to underhit his shot.
Marlet comes close
It was Marseille, though, who had looked marginally the more dangerous and the former Fulham FC striker Steve Marlet twice found space for shooting chances early on without troubling Chris Kirkland in the Liverpool goal.
Baroš and Gerrard provided the impetus for Liverpool, but Laurent Batlles and Drogba countered for Marseille with increasing menace as the home supporters grew restless. The mood was almost changed on 44 minutes when Jamie Carragher's terrific cross picked out Owen in the centre, but the striker's header flew wide of the far post.
Perhaps spurred on by that chance, the home side upped the tempo after the restart. Steven Gerrard was brought down after another strong run and he himself swung the free-kick into the centre where Dietmar Hamann headed over from six metres.
Baroš breaks the deadlock
Moments later, Liverpool did take the lead. Owen won the ball in midfield and he picked out Gerrard whose bravery in the face of an onrushing Barthez and Habib Beye forced the ball to break for Baroš, who put Liverpool ahead.
Game opens up
Liverpool looked to press home their advantage and Kewell went close three minutes later after a jinking run, but Marseille were strong on the counter as the game opened up and Sylvain N'Diaye almost sent Drogba clear with a clever flick. Drogba went close again on 68 minutes, but this time shot over. Liverpool too were creating chances. Baroš fed Owen on 77 minutes and the striker pulled the ball back to Hamann whose shot from distance went narrowly wide.
But Marseille had taken a grip in midfield and made Liverpool pay for some poor defending on 77 minutes. The home side half-cleared a succession of Marseille crosses but when Camel Meriem looped a hopeful pass back into the box, Drogba was able to hold off Steve Finnan and shoot beyond Kirkland.
Liverpool hit back immediately, Kewell's clever backheel completing a one-two with Gerrard that put the Liverpool captain beyond the Marseille defence, but Barthez was off his line quickly to save well with his legs.
Marseille hold firm
At the other end, Finnan blocked well from Drogba as Marseille came close to a second, but the match ended with Liverpool laying siege to the Marseille goal as the home side belatedly picked up the tempo in the closing stages. A Sami Hyypiä header was cleared off the line and Barthez saved again from Baroš as Marseille held firm to take a slender but important away goals advantage into the second leg.
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