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Inzaghi, Shevchenko hit 60 mark on opening night

LONDON, Sep 19 (Reuters) Holders AC Milan took the first step on the long road to Moscow when they opened their Champions League campaign with a 2-1 victory over Benfica.

The opening batch of fixtures in the 2007-08 competition, which finishes in the Russian capital on May 21, proved a milestone for two of Europe's most prolific strikers.

At San Siro, Milan's serial goal poacher Filippo Inzaghi took his tally in European club football to 60 with his side's second goal after Andrea Pirlo opened the scoring in Group D.

Inzaghi's former Milan team mate Andriy Shevchenko also hit the 60 mark when he scored Chelsea's equaliser in a frustrating 1-1 home draw with Rosenborg Trondheim in Group B yesterday.

Only German great Gerd Mueller (62) stands above them in the European scoring charts.

Real Madrid's Raul is just one goal behind Inzaghi and Shevchenko after heading their first in a 2-1 Group C victory for the nine-times champions at home to Werder Bremen.

Netherlands striker Ruud van Nistelrooy struck 16 minutes from time to mark the club's 300th game in Europe's elite competition with a victory.

Liverpool, beaten by Milan in last season's final, began with a 1-1 draw in Porto despite playing most of the second half with 10 men after winger Jermaine Pennant was sent off.

The other match in Group A ended in a 2-0 home victory for Olympique Marseille against Besiktas.

Carlo Ancelotti's Milan side, bidding for an eighth European Cup crown, clicked smoothly through the gears against Benfica and had the game won after 23 minutes thanks to Pirlo's free kick and a trademark finish from Inzaghi.

Inzaghi, however, did not get a mention from Ancelotti after the game despite taking his tally in the competition to 43.

IRREPLACEABLE PLAYER ''Pirlo scored a goal, had an assist and played the ball around well. He is an irreplaceable player. Kaka and Pirlo are a good double act,'' Ancelotti told reporters.

Shevchenko's 53rd-minute header spared Chelsea's blushes against Norwegians Rosenborg in a game watched by only 25,000 fans at Stamford Bridge.

The visitors took a shock lead in Group B through Miika Koppinen's flick in the 24th minute and Jose Mourinho's side wasted chance after chance to equalise.

Shevchenko, yet to impress since moving from Milan, eventually found the net but Rosenborg held on for a point despite one-way Blues traffic.

''The story of the match is ... we couldn't score two goals in 20 chances and we could not defend a set piece,'' a grim-looking Mourinho told reporters.

Liverpool, the 2005 champions, suffered a torrid start in the Dragao Stadium against 2004 winners Porto, going behind to a Lucho Gonzalez penalty after eight minutes.

Dutchman Dirk Kuyt, who scored in the 2-1 defeat by Milan in last May's final, headed in the equaliser after 17 minutes and Liverpool will return home satisfied with a point after Pennant was sent off in the 57th minute for a second booking.

Liverpool have not won in Portgual for 23 years.

Shakhtar Donetsk striker Brandao had the honour of scoring the first goal of the group phase of this season's competition, pouncing after five minutes to set his side on the way to a 2-0 home win over Celtic and above Milan at the top of Group D.

The result means Celtic have lost 13 of their 14 away matches in the Champions League.

Elsewhere, Schalke's hopes of surviving the group stages for the first time took a knock when they lost at home to Valencia -- David Villa scoring the only goal of the game.

Lazio drew 1-1 in Greece against Olympiakos Piraeus in a match played behind closed doors because of crowd trouble in a game last season.

Action in Groups E to H begins on Wednesday with 2006 champions Barcelona hosting Olympique Lyon and Manchester United away to Sporting.

Reuters BJR RS1014

Story first published: Wednesday, September 19, 2007, 20:06 [IST]
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