LUDOGORETS 2 – 2 LIVERPOOL
Well, that was rather exciting. Liverpool put their hearts into this game and did not come away pointless. Winning the game wasn’t super-important, we just really couldn’t lose. Our path towards the knockout rounds has taken one step further as we can now progress to play Basel and will “simply” only need to win against the Swiss side to qualify from our group. We are one victory away from qualification.
I don’t feel any resentment or disappointment to the players (or manager) for “throwing away” a win against the Bulgarians – our group position did not dictate that we must take all three points in order to have a chance of qualification. Premier league games are usually “must wins” – if you get a single point against some teams that you consider your club to be generally better than, it feels like failure.
However the groups in the Champions league are not 38 games long. There’s only three teams to play, twice. You can safely draw some games and still qualify as the fixtures play out and other sides start to lose to the leader of the group. The points total usually “evens out” for three of the four and those clubs fight for the second position.
In our group, the leader is Real Madrid and everyone is just chasing second place since Madrid are certain to take 1st spot. As other teams started losing to Madrid, the points total changed to “even out” and Liverpool have taken the opportunity to make sure we have our chance to sit just under them in our group table. Victory of any score when we play Basel will now allow us to take that 2nd place and continue our European campaign. We know what we have to do (win one more time) and we will only have ourselves to blame if we fail to achieve such a simple goal.
Injury has played a part in changing our line ups lately. We of course have no Daniel Sturridge due to recurring leg injuries that have been keeping him off the pitch for months now, in addition to the recent loss of Mario Balotelli who was injured during the international break (he hurt his hamstring while playing for Italy) so the choices for the strikers positions have been quite interesting of late… We have seen more of Rickie Lambert, Lazar Markovic and even Fabio Borini – all of whom would most likely be kept out of the side if we didn’t have injured players, the manager would certainly be choosing other key players in the starting 11.
Lambert is starting to show real promise as he gets more and more time on the pitch in several different competitions now. He has goals in the League Cup, Premier League and Champions League – which Balotelli has not yet achieved to do (Mario hasn’t scored a Premier League goal for Liverpool yet). Rickie has also scored in at least 2 consecutive games – once in our defeat to Crystal Palace and also once in the CL draw as we gained a point from the Bulgarians, Ludogorets.
If the manager has any thoughts about bringing Balotelli directly back to the starting 11 once he is fit again, he may have second thoughts and continue to keep Lambert in the side as first choice striker, especially if he keeps up the goalscoring. Could he “partner” Mario when he returns? Is this what Balotelli may need? Would Sturridge be a better partner for Lambert? There’s a chance we could see come real competition for places as the performances get better from the squad and getting into the first team will seem a challenge. “Healthy competition” is usually good for squads. People end up trying to impress the manager and can start scoring goals for that purpose.
Surprisingly, Lovren and Moreno were not chosen to start against Ludogorets, with Skrtel and Toure taking the first team regulars’ spots away from them in this game. We also haven’t seen an awful lot of Lucas this season and he got his chance to prove himself in European competition as Brendan Rodgers put his name onto the starting 11 team sheet.
Early on, the game just took a turn for the worse. Liverpool were under attack from the very first minute and when a shot from Marcelinho was not collected properly by Simon Mignolet, it fell directly to Dani Abalo’s feet who was more than happy to take advantage of the goalkeepers blunder and put the rebounded ball into the net in just the 2nd minute of the game. Liverpool’s only advantage at this point was that we had at least 88 minutes to rectify the mistake that had been made and hopefully cancel out their early lead by scoring some goals of our own.
Liverpool fans would not have to worry about this for very long as only 5 minutes later, a cross would come into the box and Rickie Lambert would head home a response for Liverpool, drawing the game level at 1-1 in just the 7th minute.
The excitement would continue as both teams had more and more attacks and the first half would see yet another goal a half hour later. Raheem Sterling would cross the ball into Jordan Henderson and Hendo would power a beautiful right footed shot from the six yard box line and Liverpool would be able to go in leading the home team by a goal at the half time break.
The second half saw much of the same as the first, except with less goals. End to end football would be played and Liverpool attempted to play out the game minute by minute, looking increasingly more likely to be winners as the end of the game drew nearer and nearer.
Around the 82nd minute, Brendan Rodgers would start to make the team considerably more defensive as he took Raheem Sterling off and brought on Alberto Moreno (a defender). With an extra player at the back, you’d think we would be able to secure our lead as we had done for most of the second half.
However, attack after attack would keep coming and Joe Allen would concede a corner in the 87th minute. Once the corner was taken, a quick assist from Svetoslav Dyakov would give Georgi Terziev his opportunity to head home a second goal for the Bulgarians, making it 2-2 with only a couple of minutes left to play. Liverpool would at this point start making several counter attacks and make efforts to get a third goal which could still create the win we had been looking like getting for a large part of the game, but it wasn’t to be. After injury time, the referee blew his whistle for full time and Liverpool had only drawn their latest Champions League game. However out sights are set firmly on the next European fixture now, we will be looking to win against Basel for our qualification to keep progressing in this competition and claim our place in the knockout rounds.
The team will be doing all they can to get where we want to be only for you, Kopites. Just walk on with hope in your hearts. and You’ll Never Walk Alone, Reds.
[written by] Stuart Drewery.
I’m an Englishman (born and raised in Liverpool in the 80s). My whole family including my parents and grandparents were Liverpool fans so i was born into being a red.
I’ve seen Liverpool win the league (about 25 years ago) and I’ve been 100% loyal and committed while supporting the Reds through all the good times AND the bad times since the 80s.
I’m a die hard Liverpool fan (only supported ONE club in my whole life, Liverpool) and one of the most dedicated fans you’ll ever meet.