17 September 2014 00:27
Brendan Rodgers basked in a “great night’ after Liverpool returned to the UEFA Champions League with a dramatic 2-1 win over Ludogorets.
Captain Steven Gerrard earned his side the Group B spoils amid late drama at Anfield as Liverpool ultimately finished on top after a stunning finale.
It appeared that Mario Balotelli would be the hero when he volleyed home his first goal for the club in the 82nd minute.
But the determined Bulgarians, appearing in the group stages of the competition for the first time, equalised towards the end of normal time through Dani Abalo.
Even then the drama was not finished, however, with Milan Borjan – signed on Friday due to Ludogorets’ top two goalkeepers being unavailable – crucially bringing down Javi Manquillo in the area.
Gerrard did the rest and finished from the spot, much to the delight of his manager.
Rodgers said: “It was a great night for everyone at the club, obviously it’s been five years [since Liverpool were last in the competition], so for the first game back and to get the result was excellent.
“A big congratulations to the players, because they showed great character and commitment to get the result.”
Rodgers’ comments, though, came with the caveat that his side have yet to hit the heights hat saw them finish second in the Premier League last term.
“I don’t think that we’re at the level that we were at last year as of yet,” said the Irishman, who has watched Liverpool slip to two defeats in four league games so far this term.
“I think that that will come. There has been a lot of new players that have come into the club and they’re still adapting to it, we’re working them.
“That’s going to take that wee bit of time but until that comes, to show that character and determination to get a result is very important.
“And to do that in the Champions League, this is a competition [where] there are no poor sides, everyone is a good side and to get the win was very important.”