They may not have won but Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was still pleased with his side following the 2-2 draw with Ludogorets Razgrad…
Liverpool still have their Champions League destiny very much in their own hands heading into the final round of Group B matches on December 9.
Despite letting a 2-1 lead slip in the final minutes against Bulgarian side Ludogorets Razgrad at the Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia, victory over FC Basel in a fortnight’s time will secure Liverpool’s place in the knockout stages.
After their recent struggles in the Premier League, another night of woe had initially looked on the cards when Dani Abalo gave the hosts a 3rd minute lead.
However, by half-time the Reds had turned the early deficit into a lead through goals from Rickie Lambert and Jordan Henderson.
Georgi Terziev’s 88th minute header may have denied Brendan Rodgers‘ side a timely victory but with Basel losing 1-0 to Real Madrid it ultimately had no impact on their chances of progressing.
Summing up the result and what it meant on the back of four straight defeats, Rodgers told his post-match press conference: “We needed to come here and put on a performance that was going to allow us to have encouragement going forward, and also a result that would allow us to be in with a chance of qualification from the group – we have got both of them.
“The reaction to going behind early on was fantastic – you saw the real character of the team tonight. To go a goal behind against a team that has done very well here in this competition, then show the spirit and quality of our goals to come back was exceptional.
“Of course we’re frustrated at the end because we had defended very well and at 2-1, it could have been three or four. But we have come away with a point, while Real Madrid beat Basel.
“At the beginning of the competition, we said that it would probably come down to the last game and to have the last game at Anfield to win and qualify, I’ll take that.”
It was a tough night’s work against the Champions League debutants, who almost came away from Merseyside on Matchday One with a point, but that was to be expected with the Bulgarians needing all three points to stay in the competition.
Their pace from wide areas was a constant threat while set-pieces also continued to cause alarm in Liverpool’s leaky rearguard.
“Ludogorets didn’t surprise me,” continued Rodgers. “They have shown in this competition so far, especially at home, that they are a very good team.
“They are very good technically and have speed in the team. They had already beaten Basel here and just lost closely to Real Madrid. So their performance didn’t surprise me.
“The first goal was a disappointment for the team because we aimed to make a solid start in the game and to go a goal behind so early on is very frustrating.
“The pitch was difficult tonight for both the outfield players and the goalkeepers. It was very bobbly, especially around the 18-yard boxes. But the players showed great character to come back and not let it affect them.”
Rodgers made a number of changes for the game, including bringing Kolo Toure into the defence, but the most notable alteration in terms of tactics and personnel was to start Lucas Leiva, Joe Allen and Henderson in midfield and push Steven Gerrard further forward.
Discussing the decision, the Northern Irishman explained: “I felt we needed more of a solid structure to the team. We played with two controlling players whose job was to not get ahead of the ball, but to control the game from behind and stay close together – both defensively and offensively.
“Both are good passers of the ball and players that can defend, get up to the ball and intercept. Then we had Steven in front of that in the No.10 position and I thought he was excellent.
“His job was to get up and support Rickie Lambert; with Jordan and his running power, and Raheem Sterling with his speed on the sides, he could feed them through.”
In the two weeks before Basel arrive at Anfield, Liverpool face Stoke City, Leicester City and Sunderland as they look to get their domestic campaign back on track
“In the Premier League, we haven’t been good enough in our performances or consistent enough – that’s my responsibility,” Rodgers concluded.
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