Tue, Aug 15, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Reds take the Community Shield

FIRST BLOOD Lanky England striker Peter Crouch scored late on to win the traditional season opener for Liverpool and leave Jose Mourinho to reflect on his squad's injuries

AGENCIES , LONDON

Chelsea's Andriy Shevchenko, left, scores the equalizer as Liverpool's Steve Finnan, right, looks on during their Community Shield Match at the Millenium Stadium, Cardiff, on Sunday.

PHOTO: AFP

A Peter Crouch header 10 minutes from time gave FA Cup winners Liverpool a 2-1 win over lackluster Premier League champions Chelsea in the Community Shield at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday and lifted Rafa Benitez to an early psychological triumph over Jose Mourinho.

In the annual preseason meeting of the FA Cup winner and the Premier League champion, Benitez fielded a below-strength lineup against a Blues lineup with almost all its stars, including new signings Michael Ballack and Andriy Shevchenko.

Although Shevchenko scored, Ballack limped off injured midway through the first half and the game left Chelsea manager Mourinho with much to think about before his team begins the defense of the league title next weekend.

"You don't like to lose but, if you don't think about the difference of condition of both teams, they deserved to win because they were better than us," said Mourinho, who revealed he had several players nursing injuries.

"Michael Ballack is injured, that's obvious. I hope it's nothing really big because we have Joe Cole, [Claude] Makelele and Petr Cech [injured] and we have to try to start the season the best we can," he said.

Despite the loss, Mourinho believes he still has the strongest squad.

"Every team will try to improve to catch us but we will be again the best team," he said. "Over 10 months of competitions it's my self confidence and the confidence of the group [that] we think we are going to win again."

After Ballack had been shown the yellow card in the sixth minute, John Arne Riise fired Liverpool ahead in the ninth with a solo run from deep in his own half followed by a 25m shot.

Ballack lasted 25 minutes before he went off with a hip injury to be replaced by another of Chelsea's offseason signings, Salomon Kalou.

Chelsea leveled two minutes before halftime when Andriy Shevchenko collected an expertly timed pass from Frank Lampard on his chest and ran clear to shoot past goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

Liverpool scored the winner 10 minutes from the end when Bellamy crossed from the left and the Chelsea defense left Crouch unmarked to head home.

In the Football League Championship, Clinton Morrison scored an injury-time winner on Sunday to help Crystal Palace edge 10-man Leeds United 1-0 and return to the top of the table.

After Leeds goalkeeper Tony Warner had twice defied Palace with acrobatic saves, Morrison collected a header from Leon Cort with his back to goal, turned Leeds defender Matthew Kilgallon and shot from 8m.

The victory means that Palace is the division's only team with a 100 percent record after three games and, with nine points, leads the league by two. Leeds slipped to its first loss and is in the middle of the standings with four points.

Leeds played for 75 minutes with 10 men after the first-half sending off of striker Geoff Horsfield, who retaliated to an off-the-ball push by Mark Hudson by elbowing the Palace defender in the face.

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