Milan back on track, Besiktas sink Liverpool

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BELGRADE, Oct 25 (Reuters) Holders AC Milan stayed on course to qualify for the Champions League last 16 with a resounding 4-1 win over Shakhtar Donetsk while Liverpool dented their hopes of advancing after a 2-1 defeat at Besiktas.

Two goals apiece from Alberto Gilardino and Clarence Seedorf lifted holders Milan to the top of Group D level on six points from three matches with Shakhtar, whose Italian striker Cristiano Lucarelli also scored at the San Siro.

Early headers from Gilardino sent Milan on their way and Seedorf capped Milan's best performance of a patchy season with two excellent volleys after Lucarelli had pulled one back for the Ukraine side.

Benfica notched their first points of the campaign after a late goal by Oscar Cardozo gave them a 1-0 win over Celtic to put them level on three points with the Scottish champions.

Last season's losing finalists Liverpool have a daunting task of avoiding an early exit after the loss in Istanbul left them bottom of Group A with only one point from three games.

''The first thing is start to think about the next game, try to win that one,'' said Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez. ''I think Liverpool can qualify with seven points.'' A Sami Hyypia own goal fired the Turkish side ahead in the 13th minute and Bobo made it 2-0 in the 82nd with a dazzling solo effort before Steven Gerrard gave Liverpool scant consolation with a diving header.

Olympique Marseille stayed in pole position on seven points after a 1-1 home draw with Porto, who have five while Besiktas have three and a chance to secure at least a UEFA Cup berth.

Mamadu Niang turned in a Djibril Cisse cross to give Marseille the lead before 2004 winners Porto earned a point thanks to a Lucho Gonzales penalty.

DRIVING SEAT Real Madrid stayed firmly in the driving seat to reach the knockout stages with a 4-2 success against 10-man Olympiakos Piraeus in an entertaining clash at the Bernabeu.

Raul gave the home side a second-minute lead and Luciano Galetti equalised shortly afterwards before Vassilis Torosidis was sent off in the 13th minute for a professional foul on Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Defender Julio Cesar stunned the home fans when he scored against his former club to give Olympiakos a 2-1 lead in the 47th minute but two goals from Robinho and another by Javier Balboa turned the match after Van Nistelrooy missed a penalty.

Robinho headed home a Sergio Ramos cross at the near post to make it 2-2 and restored Real's lead with a crisp shot after Van Nistelrooy blazed the spot kick over the bar, Balboa adding the fourth in injury time.

The result left Real leading Group C on seven points, Olympiakos have four while Werder Bremen are on three after a 2-1 home win over Lazio, who are bottom with two points from their opening three games.

Ivorian striker Boubacar Sanogo gave Werder the lead and Hugo Almeida made it 2-0 with a clinical finish at the far post before Christian Manfredini pulled one back with a tap-in after the keeper parried Aleksandar Kolarov's free kick.

Goals from Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba either side of halftime handed Chelsea a 2-0 home win over Schalke 04 to leave them top of Group B ahead of Rosenborg, who have four after a 2-0 home defeat of Valencia.

Malouda fired Chelsea ahead in the fourth minute with a fine finish after a good pass from Didier Drogba, who sealed the match shortly after the break with an unstoppable header.

REUTERS BJR VC1428

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