Fri, Sep 30, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Arsenal, Marseille leave worries behind

SOLID SUPPORT:Chelsea’s Frank Lampard won strong praise from manager Andre Villas-Boas, who reacted angrily to reporters’ questions about his performance


Arsenal and Olympique de Marseille set aside their poor league form so far this season with valuable home wins in their Champions League group matches on Wednesday.

Arsenal edged Greek side Olympiakos 2-1, while Marseille, who have just one league win all season, pulled off an impressive 3-0 victory at home to German champions Borussia Dortmund.

Marseille top group F with six points from their two matches, while Arsenal are second on four.

Elsewhere, champions Barcelona eased to a 5-0 win away at BATE Borisov, while AC Milan — who grabbed a last-gasp 2-2 draw with Barca in their opening group match — overcame Czech debutants Viktoria Plzen 2-0 at the San Siro.

Chelsea looked like they were on their way to making it two wins from two as they took a 1-0 lead away at Valencia, veteran midfielder Frank Lampard scoring an excellent goal, his 20th in the competition.

However, Valencia forced a deserved draw four minutes from time as Salomon Kalou, who had just come on for Lampard, was penalized for handball and Roberto Soldado made no mistake from the spot.

Lampard said that he liked nothing more than a challenge, having found his position under scrutiny after losing his starting place in recent games.

“Yes, it’s tough when you lose your place, but it’s happened to me before and I have always risen to such a challenge,” the 33-year-old said.

Lampard’s performance earned praise from Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas, who had reacted angrily on Tuesday at a question as to whether he had a future at the club.

“It was a good performance from Lampard and there is nothing more to say,” the Portuguese coach said. “He is one of the best players in our squad and I was very happy with him. The team worked well collectively and individually, and so I was very happy.”

Arsenal made a roaring start against Olympiakos, easing into a 2-0 lead thanks to goals by 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain — the third-youngest scorer for Arsenal in Champions League history — and Andre Santos.

However, some dreadful Gunners defending allowed Olympiakos back into the match six minutes later as David Fuster made them pay.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose father, former England international Mark Chamberlain, was in the crowd, said he had reveled in playing at such a high level just months after playing in League One.

“It was a really good experience,” he said. “It’s a big step up, but I want to play at the top level and I have plenty more time to play in the Champions League. It’s my first time in the Champions League and I’m glad we’ve achieved three points.”

Marseille owed their victory to Ghanaian star Andre Ayew, who scored a double, the first a fine shot from the edge of the box and the second a penalty.

Loic Remy netted in between for Didier Deschamps’ side.

“To have six points after two games is good,” Marseille coach Deschamps told Canal+. “In the last two seasons, we had zero points [after two games], but to qualify you need a minimum of 10.”

“We’ve made a good start, but we’re not there yet,” he said.

Barcelona had wrapped up the three points by halftime as they outclassed their Belarusian hosts.

The hosts hardly helped their cause with an own-goal to make it 1-0 and their goalkeeper Alyaksandr Gutor dropping the ball onto Lionel Messi’s head for their third.

The Argentine maestro added another early in the second half with a rasping drive to make it 14 goals in 10 matches this season.

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