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Liverpool 2, Ludogorets 1: First Thoughts

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In Liverpool's long-awaited return to the Champions League, a late Steven Gerrard penalty gave Liverpool a dramatic win at Anfield.

Clive Brunskill

liverpool blog fc sbn

Liverpool 2 Balotelli 82', Gerrard (pen.) 90+3'
Ludogorets 1 Abalo 90'

  • Liverpool's return to the Champions League after a lengthy absence for one of Europe's footballing aristocrats saw Raheem Sterling return to the line up in place of the suspended Lazar Marković. Mario Balotelli was flanked by Adam Lallana on the right and Sterling on the left with Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson in advanced midfield positions ahead of Steven Gerrard.

  • The opening quarter of the hour was relatively comfortable for Liverpool without Brendan Rodgers' side really impressing. On the 15 minute mark, Liverpool produced their best passage of play down the left hand side with Moreno's good ball a little high, and Ludogorets responded with some neat interplay of their own down their right side to warn Liverpool that this team could play a little. Ludogorets showed in the first thirty minutes that they possess organisation, composure, and pockets of combination play. Anfield's visitors were not amateurs.

  • Liverpool were on the front foot more so than their opponents in the first half but the Bulgarian visitors have perhaps informed all that this group may be a little tougher for Liverpool than first thought. Liverpool's fullbacks and English leaders were probably the pick of the bunch in the first half along with an assured showing from Mamadou Sakho. The attacking cohesion was lacking again from Liverpool and the number ten in red was lacking in his passing accuracy and decision making.

  • As the second half progressed, it appeared that there would eventually be a goal as there was more space for players to find greater time to make better decisions as well as exploit for counter attacking purposes. While Liverpool looked more capable of scoring a goal with more players entering the opposition area, Ludogorets looked dangerously capable on the counter attack.

  • Liverpool went ahead from Alberto Moreno's serious defensive work. His recovery tackle surely saved Liverpool from going behind and his cross assisted Mario Balotelli. 

  • What the hell? Counter attack! Equaliser. Can we even keep a clean sheet and close out this game? Everything's the worst! Penalty? Penalty! Gerrard! 40th European goal! The win! Madness!

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We'll be back shortly to take an in-depth look at everything that happened in today's game with the full recap. Until then, let us know your take on the ups and downs of the match in the comments, and if you haven't already, join the community on the Liverpool Offside, where we'll have full coverage and lively in-game discussion for every match this season.