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Ludogorets 2, Liverpool 2: Tepid And Without Answers

Liverpool didn't exactly impress today against Ludogorets in Bulgaria, and they conceded late to lose a win and throw away two vital points.

Michael Steele/Getty Images

Liverpool had a disastrous start to the match, had a decent recovery, then just kind of flailed their way through the rest of the match. They never really convinced at all through the 90 minutes, so it was little surprise when Ludogorets found a late equalizer and sent the visiting Reds back to the airport with their heads hanging low and their Champions League campaign on the brink.

liverpool blog fc sbn

Ludogorets 2 Abalo 3', Terziev 88'
Liverpool 2 Lambert 8', Henderson 37'

Things got off to a rough start for Liverpool, with an experimental midfield having a rough time holding possession and slowing down Ludogorets' counter attack. It was just three minutes before a disastrous run of mistakes lead to Simon Mignolet flailing from a poor position at Dani Abalo's shot as it sailed on by him and in to the back of the net. If it wasn't so head-shakingly predictable from the way the sequence built up, it would have been infuriating.

Liverpool were able to find an answer when some sloppy possession from the Bulgarian side's back line lead to the ball bouncing around in  their box for Rickie Lambert to latch on to. Lambert's touch almost cost him the opportunity to score, but neither defender Georgi Terziev or goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov played it well either, giving Lambert the chance to get just enough of a hit on the ball with his head to knock it past Stoyanov and in to the side netting for an equalizer.

Many hoped from there that Liverpool would put their foot on the gas and chase hard after another goal, but that outcome wasn't to be. Liverpool struggled badly in possession, with Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson in particular guilty of a multitude of turnovers. Ludogorets weren't having the easiest of times either, but Liverpool did nothing to punish their mistakes. It was just more of the same mediocrity and aimlessness that we've grown all too accustomed to.

The one standout moment for Liverpool in the entire match was on the second goal. Raheem Sterling's run in to the final third was excellent, his cross was picture-perfect, and Jordan Henderson's supporting run and finish were excellent. It was a well-deserved goal and highlight moment, and at least for a few minutes the unease over Liverpool's performance was lifted.

When the two sides came out of the break, though, it was more of the same. Liverpool mostly looked listless, and when they didn't look listless, they looked scattered and unorganized. Sterling and Henderson would occasionally try to drive the team forward, but Gerrard and Lambert were so static and easily marked out that they had no support once the ball got in to the final third.

As the match ticked towards the hour mark, it looked like Brendan Rodgers needed to start utilizing his bench to bring fresh legs and new ideas on to the pitch. Any of Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana, or Fabio Borini could bring an injection of much needed energy in to the side, and either of the first two could bring the creativity that Liverpool desperately needed.

Then the hour mark came, and no subs were used. Then it passed, and no subs were used. At 65 minutes, no subs. 70 minutes, no subs. 75. 80. Nothing.

Finally, finally, in the 82nd minute, Rodgers went to his bench... to take off Raheem Sterling and bring on Alberto Moreno. In a match where attacking ideas were needed, or maybe even something to stabilize the midfield (or both with the right sub!), Rodgers took off his best player on the day and brought on a third fullback. That would prove to be his only sub of the day. Yeah. OK.

And so it was that as 90 minutes came closer, a comedy of defensive errors lead to a corner. A corner that saw Glen Johnson fail to mark his man properly for the umpeenth time on a set piece this season. A corner that saw that unmarked man, Terizev in this case, score an equalizing goal almost at the death. It was so obvious, so predictable, that it didn't even really hurt to see happen. It just was there, like a fact of life.

liverpool blog fc sbn

At this point, something has to give. Yes, the losing streak was snapped, but it's not as though the actual product and performance on the pitch was any better than it has been. There's talent in this squad, but it's being utilized poorly, and the results show it. Now Liverpool's Champions League campaign is on the brink, with only a win against Basel at Anfield being good enough to see them through. Even that's far from guaranteed, between how well Basel played them in Switzerland earlier this season and how poor Liverpool's form is right now.

Where can Liverpool go from here? Everything that's being tried is failing, usually miserably. There's no confidence in the squad right now. Everyone just looks beaten and tired. This team is a pale shadow of the Liverpool side that kicked the crap out of almost everyone in the league last season. There's no obvious answers any more, just a vague hope that things can get better. There's so many problems that need fixing at this point, it's hard to know where to start. Hopefully someone can figure it out, because Liverpool need to get better quickly before the entire season spirals away from them.

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