Live Commentary: Liverpool 2-1 Ludogorets - as it happened

Live Commentary: Liverpool 2-1 Ludogorets - as it happened
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Find out how Liverpool managed to overcome Ludogorets in the Champions League with Sports Mole's text updates.

A stoppage-time penalty from Steven Gerrard sealed a 2-1 victory for Liverpool in their Champions League group encounter against Ludogorets this evening.

It appeared that the Bulgarians had claimed a share of the spoils when substitute Dani Abalo cancelled out Mario Balotelli's opener in the 90th minute.

However, skipper Gerrard kept his composure with virtually the finally kick of the game to earn his side all three points.

You can find out how the match unfolded with Sports Mole's text updates.


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6.48pmEvening all. Well, it will be fair to say that Liverpool fans have been waiting a long time for tonight - five years to be precise. The famous Champions League anthem will ring out around Anfield for the first time since 2009 this evening, with minnows Ludogorets the opponents. The home faithful will no doubt be buoyant, yet also expectant. With Real Madrid in the group, a win for the Reds is vital.

6.50pmSo, which 11 players has Brendan Rodgers selected to get Liverpool's Champions League campaign underway? Team news coming up next...

6.51pmLIVERPOOL XI: Mignolet; Manquillo, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno; Gerrard, Henderson; Coutinho, Sterling, Lallana; Balotelli

6.52pmLIVERPOOL SUBS: Jones, Enrique, Toure, Lucas, Suso, Borini, Lambert

6.55pmThe big news as far as Liverpool are concerned is that Raheem Sterling is back in the starting lineup, having surprisingly been rested for the weekend's home defeat at the hands of Aston Villa. The England international will form part of a three-pronged attack along with Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho that will offer support to lone striker Mario Balotelli. Elsewhere, centre-back Martin Skrtel's fitness has not been risked, with Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho continuing their partnership at the heart of the Liverpool defence.

6.56pmIs it a rule that every club has to produce a graphic on Twitter of their starting lineups now?! To be fair to Liverpool, their effort tonight is pretty impressive:



6.58pmWhat of the away side then? You may not know many or indeed any of their players, but coming up is their starting lineup...

7.00pmLUDOGORETS XI: Borjan; Caicara, Moti, A Aleksandrov, Minev; M Aleksandrov, Dyakov, Abel, Misidjan; Marcelinho; Bezjak

7.01pmLUDOGORETS SUBS: Gospodinov, Espinho, Angulo, Abalo, Zlatinski, Wanderson, Hamza

7.05pmFirst and foremost, there are some odd shirt numbers in that Ludogorets side! Virgil Misidjan wears number 93, while there is also going to be an 80 and an 84 out there. Also, on the bench, there is an 88 and 99. Anyway, in terms of team selection, with goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov suspended, the gloves have gone to Canada international Milan Borjan. He only joined the club a few days ago. Having been the hero in goal during the qualifier against Steaua Bucharest, Cosmin Moti has returned to his natural centre-back position.

7.09pmLet's stay with Ludogorets for a moment. We all know most of what there is to know about Liverpool, but information on the Bulgarians is not as easy to come by. Here are some little snippets:

Founded: 2001
Home city population: 33,000
Record transfer fee: £1.5m


7.13pmThe man that many of you may have heard of is defender Moti. For those of you that haven't, let's explain why he has become such a big name. In the qualifier against Steaua last month, the 29-year-old went in goal after Stoyanov had been sent off. He went on to save two penalties in the shootout, which earned his side a place in the group stages of the Champions League for their first time in their history. You can relive that moment below:


7.16pmSpeaking to BBC Sport recently, Moti conceded that he had never heard of his current club before he signed for them two years ago: "I asked a few Romanians who were playing in Bulgaria and they said Ludogorets was a serious club and the people who run it are serious.

"When I arrived it was easy because they had some other Romanian players and one Bulgarian guy who spoke perfect Romanian and translated everything for me. The team who won the league two years ago has stayed roughly the same. That is an advantage for us because we played together for a long time."


7.20pmOf course, this is also a big night for Liverpool. They may be huge favourites to win this evening, but that brings with it plenty of pressure. They were not particularly creative last time out against Villa, who defended well and were organised. It's likely that Ludogorets will play with a similar style tonight.

7.22pmIt would seem that those in charge of Liverpool's official Twitter is rather excited by the club's return to the big time:



7.25pmManager Brendan Rodgers, though, has insisted that his squad are fully focused on going deep in the competition. As he told FourFourTwo, there is no giddiness:

"We are not tourists in this competition - we believe it is where we belong and where we should be playing," he told FourFourTwo.

"For the players and everyone involved it's something that brings the real excitement, but it isn't a 'giddy' excitement. We are Liverpool, we are five times winners of the European Cup and we are synonymous with its best traditions," he said.

"Our players are excited by the challenges ahead, not daunted by them. We have earned the right to be there, that's the important thing."


7.29pmWhat about Rodgers's opposite number? Well, firstly, his name is Georgi Dermendzhiev. He is a 59-year-old former defender, who took charge of Ludogorets earlier this year. With regards to how his team will approach this encounter tactically, he told reporters:

"There is a saying in football that a team plays as much as the opposition allows them but, of course, if we need to play defensively we will, but we will also use every chance to attack."


7.33pmHEAD TO HEAD: Well, obviously, these sides have never met before, but Liverpool have faced Bulgarian clubs before. In total, four teams from the Eastern European country have visited Anfield, with three being beaten. However, in 2005, CSKA Sofia did record a shock 1-0 Champions League victory over the Reds. A bit of confidence for Ludogorets perhaps?

7.37pmPREDICTION: Former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson certainly isn't giving Ludogorets much chance of pulling off a shock win here. The now pundit believes there is more chance of him marrying Miss World than the Bulgarians claiming a victory. We won't be that extreme, but we do fully expect Liverpool to win. Let's go for a relatively straightforward 3-0 success, with Mario Balotelli scoring his first goal in a red shirt.

7.41pmReason for optimism for all you Ludogorets fans?!:



7.43pmRight, the players have filtered on to the pitch and as you'd expect, there's plenty of noise being made by the home fans. There is a real sense of excitement mixed with expectation. Will it get the better of the players? It shouldn't, but you never know in football. The next 90 minutes will tell us.

1 minKICKOFF! Hosting Liverpool, on their return to the Champions League, get the match underway. The home side will attack from right to left in the first half.

3 minAn early moment for Gerrard to make an impression as Balotelli is fouled down the left byline. The delivery from Gerrard is poor, though, and is easily cleared by the away side.

5 minBOOKING! You get the feeling this might happen a lot tonight. Sterling knocks the ball down the line and looks to race away, but before he can get up to full speed, he's hacked down by Aleksandar Aleksandrov, who is rightly cautioned.

9 minTo be fair to Ludogorets, they are holding their own at the moment. Liverpool, as you would expect, are controlling the possession, but the visitors look to be well organised and have given nothing away yet.

11 minThe first piece of real excitement as Moreno picks up possession deep inside his own half and then drives forward. The Liverpool left-back ends up, unchallenged, just inside the Ludogorets area, but his cross for Balotelli is overhit and the chance is gone.

15 minWith very little to report in recent minutes, here's a picture of Liverpool's starting lineup:



17 minIt must said, right now, if Liverpool are going to score, Moreno will be involved. He's getting a lot of space down the left side and is almost functioning as a winger. If the little Spaniard can find his range - his crossing has not been overly accurate so far - Liverpool may well be in business.

20 minA bright moment for the away side as Caicara plays a neat one-two, before sending a low cross with plenty of curl into the Liverpool area. The home defenders are static, but a moving Bezjak cannot quite get there to take advantage and the ball rolls out of play. Lovely idea from the Brazilian defender nonetheless.

23 minCHANCE! A really good opening for Balotelli to open his Liverpool account as he spins Moti on the edge of the area. However, as he unleashes a shot, the ball is blocked by a brave sliding challenge from Aleksandrov. The rebound then breaks for Sterling, but the winger is an offside position and Ludogorets survive, just!

26 minMeanwhile, up the other end, Ludogorets have forced a couple of corners. Mignolet has come off his line to claim both, but it's been an energetic showing from the visitors up until this point.

30 minPENALTY APPEAL! Ludogorets playmaker Marcelinho wants a penalty and you can understand why. He is at full speed as he enters the penalty area, which seems to catch out a flat footed Lovren. The Liverpool defender puts an arm across his opponent, who hits the deck. The referee is not interested, but you've seen them given, particularly in the Champions League.

32 minAll of a sudden, Ludogorets are growing in confidence here. They have a handful of players that are willing to get on the ball and then carry it forward. Right now, you'd have to say that it is them that are posing more of an attacking threat.

35 minSAVE! It's the first real stop that Ludogorets keeper Borjan has had to make and the Canadian will be hoping that all of Liverpool's shot are like this. Balotelli does well initially to work himself enough space on the edge of the area, but his shot is scuffed and trickles through to Borjan. The Italian's wait for a first Liverpool goal continues.

38 minHere's a bit of match action for you as Sterling tussles for possession:

Liverpool's English midfielder Raheem Sterling (R) vies for the ball with Ludogorets Razgrad's Mihail Aleksandrov during the UEFA Champions League Group B match on September 16, 2014© Getty Images


40 minCHANCE! How has Lallana not put Liverpool in front? Coutinho does well to pick out Henderson inside the area and the midfielder in turn picks out Lallana. However, with the goal at his mercy, the England international appears to get the ball stuck under his feet and his weak shot is easily cleared. From the resultant corner, taken by Gerrard, Lovren heads over from eight yards out. Nevertheless, that's better from Liverpool.

44 min"Moti" cry the travelling fans as the centre-back whacks the ball clear into the Liverpool half. It seems that the away side are hoping to get in at the break level.

45 minThere will be one minute of stoppage time at the end of this first half.

45+1 minHALF-TIME: LIVERPOOL 0-0 LUDOGORETS

8.33pmWell, that wasn't how it was supposed to be! It was a positive atmosphere that greeted the players at the start, but Ludogorets, to their credit, have somewhat silenced that Anfield faithful. It's 0-0 at the break, with few chances to speak of.

8.35pmFor Liverpool, they've been better than Saturday, but not much. We are used to them counter-attacking teams with pace, but it seems that opposition sides are getting wise to it. Sterling has been lively, but he hasn't seen enough of the ball to have had too much of an impact. Meanwhile, the likes of Gerrard, who you would expect to pull the strings in a match like this, has been quiet. Plenty for Rodgers to ponder, that's for sure.

8.38pmAs for Ludogorets, they grew in confidence as that half wore on. In Marcelinho they have a tricky playmaker, who on another day could very well have earned his side a penalty. Defensively, they have been organised and cleared the lines well - something that must continue in the second half if they are to collect anything from this encounter. Obviously, there is a long way to go, but so far, so good for the Bulgarians.

8.43pmSo, what can Rodgers alter to swing the game in Liverpool's favour? Switching Sterling into a more central role could well prove beneficial, or certainly into a position where he can roam. At the moment, the youngster seems to be operating mainly down the left, which is restricting him to a degree. Although the away side have defended well, you get the impression that if Liverpool get one goal, they could go on to get three of four.

46 minRESTART! The players are back with us and Ludogorets get the second half underway at Anfield.

49 minWise words from former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher:



53 minCHANCE! It's been a pacey start to this second half by Liverpool and they should be in front. Henderson picks out an advancing Manquillo inside the area, but the right-back's strike is almost too clean and flies over the crossbar. Perhaps a more attack-minded player would have converted that chance. Then, moments later up the other end, Mignolet is forced to palm clear a fierce drive from Caicara.

55 minBOOKING! The second yellow card for a foul on Sterling goes to Ludogorets right-back Caicara. He can have no complaints because he clearly pulled back the speeding Liverpool winger.

59 minThis man, just as he did on Saturday, has looked a little rusty tonight:



63 minAnother player that has had an off-night for Liverpool is Coutinho. The little Brazilian, who at his best can be so creative, has been ever so wasteful in possession of the ball. If a substitution is to be made, it could well be him that makes way.

65 minCHANCE! Gerrard falls asleep and it almost costs Liverpool dearly. A throw flies well over the Liverpool captain's head and Bezjak is through on goal. However, he's always stretching, which results in his shot flying just over the crossbar. Just as they did in the first half, Ludogorets are starting to flex their attacking muscles.

68 minLIVERPOOL SUBS: It's a double change from Rodgers, who takes off Lallana and Coutinho, which is no big surprise because both struggled tonight. The duo have been replaced by Fabio Borini and Lucas.

70 minSAVE! It's the best cross that Liverpool full-back Manquillo has sent into the box all night and Borini should arguably have done better. The Italian's header from eight yards out has plenty of power, but it's straight at Borjan, who is able to divert the ball over his crossbar for a corner.

73 minPOST! No, not Liverpool - it's Ludogorets that strike the post. Their star man Marcelinho threads a smart low pass through for Bezjak, who is through on goal. His effort beats Mignolet with minimal fuss, but it hits the foot of the upright and the rebound from an onrushing Minev is flashed wide. Liverpool got lucky there - can they make the most of that reprieve?

76 minCHANCE! Liverpool respond almost instantly with a raid forward which ends with Moreno sending over a dangerous cross. It's met by Henderson, but from a standing position, his downward header skids a foot wide of the target. Incidentally, soon after they hit the post, Ludogorets made a change with Spaniard Dani Abalo replacing Misidjan.

77 minBOOKING! A third Ludogorets defender goes into the book, this time for a late lunge on Borini. Minev is the offender and he doesn't complain.

82 minGOAL! LIVERPOOL 1-0 LUDOGORETS (BALOTELLI)

82 minIt's come firmly against the run of play, but Liverpool lead and it's that man Balotelli. He wrestles for possession with Moti inside the area and the ball breaks kindly for him. After that, he needs to show composure, which he possesses in spades as he flicks his shot with the outside of his boot beyond the reach of a helpless Borjan. Anfield erupts, more out of relief than anything else.

86 minLUDOGORETS SUB: Another change for the visitors and it's the creative Espinho that enters the action. He has taken the place of captain Dyakov. Moments later, Balotelli forces Borjan to make a smart save from a powerful shot. Liverpool are in the ascendancy.

87 minLUDOGORETS SUB: Final switch for Ludogorets and it's Bezjak that comes off. He really should have scored just a few minutes before Balotelli broke the deadlock. His place has gone to Tunisian international Hamza Younes.

90 minGOAL! LIVERPOOL 1-1 LUDOGORETS (ABALO)

90 minPENALTY TO LIVERPOOL! The Bulgarians are level and they fully deserve to be, but Liverpool have a penalty. Real drama here...

90+3 minGOAL! LIVERPOOL 2-1 LUDOGORETS (GERRARD, PEN)

90+3 minFootball - you couldn't make it up! Substitute Abola draws Ludogorets level to surely earn them the point their performance deserves. However, a minute later, visiting goalkeeper Borjan has a rush of blood to the head and brings down Manquillo. From there, when Gerrard has a penalty at The Kop end, there is only ever one outcome. Liverpool are lucky, but they lead again and surely that's it.

90+4 minFULL TIME: LIVERPOOL 2-1 LUDOGORETS

9.38pmMadness, just madness! It may be undeserved, but Liverpool have won the match. They were given a major scare by their Bulgarian opponents, but when you get a penalty in stoppage time to claim the victory, you wouldn't want anyone else other than Gerrard taking it, would you?

9.40pmSo, Champions League football is well and truly back at Anfield. What a good game that was to watch. Arguably a draw was fair, but a mistake has cost Ludogorets dearly. That is all we have time for from Anfield. Thanks for joining us this evening and we will leave you with a tweet from Jamie Carragher - remember, he warned you earlier! Until next time, goodbye.



Liverpool's English midfielder Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Southampton at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, northwest England, on August 17, 2014
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