Downing gets Reds off to winning start

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Downing_Europa AP Liverpool's Stewart Downing (left) vies for the ball with Gomel's Mikalai Kashenski.

Paris – Stewart Downing ensured that Brendan Rodgers' first match in charge of Liverpool ended in victory as he scored the only goal against Gomel in a Europa League third qualifying round first leg tie in Belarus on Thursday.

Downing's 25-yard effort midway through the second half was enough to give the Reds the edge going into the second leg match at Anfield next Thursday.

Gomel dominated most of the game and the Merseysiders were lucky to leave with the win after the hosts missed a string of chances.

Also playing under new coaches, French side Marseille, under Elie Baup, were held 1-1 at Turkish club Eskisehirspor, while Guus Hiddink's big-spending Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala won 2-0 at home against Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem.

Andre-Pierre Gignac had put Baup's side ahead four minutes after the break when he picked up a Morgan Amalfitano cross, but the hosts pulled level after 62 minutes through Austrian striker Atdhe Nuhiu.

Nuhiu almost claimed a second ten minutes later but the injury-depleted visitors held on for a draw, with a home leg in their Velodrome stadium to look forward to next Thursday.

“There are lessons to be learnt but everything remains to be played for,” said Baup. “We have to get to work and refocus. This Turkish team has quality, they are very dangerous. We made too many mistakes for my liking.”

Elsewhere, Romanian side Rapid Bucharest have an uphill task in their home leg after falling 4-0 at Dutch club Heerenveen as Dynamo Moscow were held 2-2 at Dundee United with the Scottish club denied a famous win by a deflected injury-time strike.

Keith Watson looked to have earned United the advantage after he bundled home from close range following a 75th-minute corner but Alexander Kokorin silenced Tannadice with a 25-yard strike that looped home off a United defender for a 2-2 draw.

Italy's Inter Milan are poised to advance after a comfortable 3-0 victory at Croatian club Hajduk Split, but Irish side St Patrick's are staring at Europa League elimination after suffering a 3-0 defeat at home in Dublin to Hannover. – Sapa-AFP

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