With their UEFA Champions League campaign in peril, Liverpool only just managed to stay alive on Wednesday when they allowed Ludogorets to equalize to make it 2-2 in the 88th minute in Bulgaria. Liverpool badly needed the win, and now still only have four points from five games, but they weren’t eliminated thanks to Real Madrid’s narrow 1-0 win at FC Basel.
As such, in spite of winning just once in five European contests, the Reds hang on by a thread heading into the final matchday. With Real already through, they will need a win in their head-to-head matchup with Basel at home.
”We showed wonderful resilience and scored two good goals tonight,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers said. ”To go a goal behind so early on you really need a team that is together and I think the character of the team came out.
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”We were disappointed with the goal at the end but that’s irrelevant.”
In the early going, things did not look good for Liverpool. They made a slack start to the game and the third minute wasn’t quite up yet when they were already down a goal. On a counter attack, Dani Abalo swept the ball home after a long shot had been bobbled by Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. The ball had hopped close to him and he’d let it skip away, into the path of the Spanish attacker.
Thankfully for Liverpool, Ludogorets’ back line wasn’t exactly impenetrable either. Just five minutes after going behind, Liverpool found an equalizer. A defender headed the ball back to his goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov, but he did so with a high arc. Rickie Lambert snuck between a second defender and Stoyanov and cleverly headed the ball over the latter and in off the far post.
For much of the early going, the biggest threat to either team was their own defense. Liverpool’s Kolo Toure, for instance, slid a low cross just inches wide of his own goal. Mignolet, meanwhile, looked shaky, as he has often this year, flapping at and bobbling balls.
Ludogorets, for the most part, controlled the run of play in the first half. Yet Liverpool got what looked for a long time like it would be the winner in the 37th minute. The excellent Raheem Sterling, whose searing speed the Bulgarians never found an antidote to, went streaking up the left flank, where he sent a low and sharp cross in behind the defenders. Jordan Henderson met it by the far post and converted from a tight angle.
As the curtain rose on the second half, Liverpool looked a good deal more composed. They neglected to put the game away though, and it would cost them. In the 63rd minute, Sterling’s short cross was headed onto goal by the diving Lambert. It was blocked on the line and fell kindly for Henderson, but he airmailed his finish from up close.
The game opened up in the late going â again, a tactical mistake by Liverpool â and Sterling remained a menace. In the 82nd minute, he got away from his defenders again and through on goal, but Stoyanov denied him from close range.
And then, the bad luck that has hampered Liverpool all season long reared its ugly head again. Ludogorets’s Hamza Younes whacked a cross into the box, where Joe Allen blocked it with his arm from very close range. Reasonably, no penalty call was made and the Bulgarians were awarded the corner instead.
That dead ball was headed on at near post by Svetoslav Dyakov and nodded home at the far post by Georgi Terziev to equalize the game.
Liverpool have now gone four games in Europe without a win. Had their draw not been so soft, they would probably have been long gone from this competition. Somehow, they have avoided that ignominious fate and could advance with a win.
In an unlucky season, that’s a piece of good fortune.
”We need to win a game at the end against Basel and at the start we would have looked at that game as the one to see us through and it should be a great night at Anfield,” said Rogers.