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Defending Champion AC Milan Open with Win
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AC Milan opened the defense of its Champions League title with a 2-1 win over Benfica yesterday, and Chelsea and 10-man Liverpool had to settle for 1-1 draws.

Nearly four months after beating Liverpool to win its seventh European Cup, scored one goal and set up the other.

Andrea Pirlo celebrates the goal. [Photo:sina.com]

"(Pirlo) is an irreplaceable player," Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "He scored a goal, made an assist and directed the passing well."

Pirlo curled a free kick into the top left-hand corner in the ninth minute. He then passed to Filippo Inzaghi in the 24th, and the striker beat Benfica goalkeeper Quim for his 60th goal in UEFA club competitions -- and 39th in the Champions League.

Inzaghi, who scored twice in the Champions League final and also in Milan's 3-1 European Super Cup win over Sevilla three weeks ago, is two goals short of Gerd Muller's European record.

Second-half substitute Nuno Gomes tapped in a consolation goal for Benfica in injury time.

Filippo Inzaghi [Photo: sina.com]

The win gives Milan three points in Group D, the same as Shakhtar Donetsk, which beat Celtic 2-0 with goals in the first eight minutes from Brandao and Cristiano Lucarelli.

Chelsea drew 1-1 with Rosenborg, and Liverpool finished 1-1 at FC Porto. Liverpool midfielder Jermaine Pennant was sent off in the 58th minute for a second yellow card.

Real Madrid defeated Werder Bremen 2-1 with a 74th-minute goal from Ruud van Nistelrooy, who also helped set up Raul Gonzalez for the Spanish club's first goal.

Also, it was Marseille 2, Besiktas 0; Schalke 0, Valencia 1; and Olympiakos 1, Lazio 1.

Raul gave Madrid the lead in the 16th minute after taking a low cross from Van Nistelrooy for his 57th Champions League goal. Werder Bremen immediately leveled when Boubacar Sanogo prodded the ball in from close range in the 17th.

Raul celebrates his goal. [Photo: Xinhua]

Van Nistelrooy's winner was his 50th goal in the Champions League. He slotted in a short pass from Raul to make up for missing a handful of chances in the match.

"The team worked for this win. They knew it wasn't going to be easy," Madrid coach Bernd Schuster said. "They worked, they fought, they did some things I liked a lot, some I didn't so much, but we deserved it in the end."

In the other Group C game, Luciano Zauri scored a late goal to help Lazio hold Olympiakos to a 1-1 draw. Zauri beat the offsides trap and slotted the ball past Olympiakos goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis in the 77th minute.

Olympiakos had gone ahead when Luciano Galletti scored in the 55th.

Andriy Shevchenko scored a second-half equalizer to earn the draw for Chelsea in Group B.

Miika Koppinen gave the visitors the lead in the 24th minute at Stamford Bridge when he beat John Terry to a cross and volleyed the ball past Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.

Shevchenko leveled in the 52nd with a header after taking a cross from Florent Malouda.

"I think they (Rosenborg) were not a problem, we were the problem," Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said. "Because it's a game you can win (by) five, six or seven."

David Villa scored in the second half to give Valencia a 1-0 win at Schalke in Group B.

Photo shows Van Nistelrooy(L) celebrates his goal with his teammate Raul in the game. [Photo: Xinhua]

Villa scored against the run of play in the 63rd after collecting a long ball from Luis Miguel. He outpaced Heiko Westermann and shook off a challenge from Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer before slotting home.

Liverpool fell behind in Porto when goalkeeper Pepe Reina fouled Tarik Sektioui and Lucho Gonzalez converted a penalty kick in the eighth minute.

Dirk Kuyt headed in from close range in the 17th to level. Steve Finnan sent in a cross from the right that was headed across the goal by Sami Hyypia to Kuyt.

"We are pleased because we played 30 minutes with 10 men," Kuyt said. "Porto is a really strong team and at least we didn't lose. If we can beat them at home we will be OK."

Marseille beat Besiktas in the other Group A match, with second-half goals from Julien Rodriguez and Djibril Cisse.

Rodriguez scored from close range in the 76th after Samir Nasri's corner bounced back off the post and fell to his feet. Cisse broke through in injury time and poked the ball inside the near post.

Today, Wayne Rooney returns for Manchester United, which plays at Sporting Lisbon, while Sevilla plays its first game European soccer's elite competition since 1957 at Arsenal and 2006 champion FC Barcelona hosts Lyon.

Also it's: Rangers vs. Stuttgart; AS Roma vs. Dynamo Kiev; PSV Eindhoven vs. CSKA Moscow; Fenerbahce vs. Inter Milan; and Slavia Prague vs. Steaua Bucharest.

(Shanghai Daily via Agencies September 19, 2007)

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