Liverpool fans who had long waited for the glory of Champions League football to return to Anfield saw their wait come to an end Tuesday night against Ludogorets, but what they hoped would be a decisive win if not an out-and-out entertaining goal fest turned into a bit of a nightmare once the match actually began. That the club eked out three points by the end of ninety minutes was a bit harsh on their opponents, but manager Brendan Rodgers attributed the uneven performance to a squad that is still settling into the season.
"We are still adapting with a lot of new players coming into the squad," Rodgers said in speaking with Sky Sports after the match. "At times in other games in the league we have been outstanding and at other times we have been a wee bit slow. But the thing I can never question is the determination and character of this team. So to get that win tonight and start back in the Champions League with three points was vital for us and I am delighted for the players and the mentality tonight."
Rodgers was quick to assign praise to Ludogorets as a club likely to present a challenge to all their opponents in Group B, and the Bulgarian side's determination on the road might serve as a warning to Real Madrid and FC Basel that taking all three points in a match is no guarantee.
But Liverpool showed their own determination as well, finding themselves once again in a position to scratch out a win in a potentially desperate situation. Coughing up a lead in extra time is not exactly ideal, but securing a penalty to end the game in such a dramatic fashion is not uncharacteristic for the club.
"We have seen that [late goals] so many times over the years," Rodgers said, "but I think it says everything about the club. You have to play right until the end and maybe in the first six months I was here that was a game we may have drawn or even lost.
"Even with the late equaliser, coming back to get the penalty showed we were still on the front foot to try and score. There is no one better in the pressure situation than Steven Gerrard and it was a great penalty from him."
Lots of things to learn from, and lots of talking points for Rodgers to address with his team in the days leading up to Saturday's match against West Ham United. It wasn't a resounding 12-0 thumping of Bulgaria's top club, but at the end of the day it's the first of six matches and three points Liverpool will need to help reach the knockout rounds of the tournament.