Liverpool Wins With a Clutch


Liverpool hasn’t had their first Champions League game since December 2009. For past 5 years, Liverpool had been waiting for this moment. Liverpool wanted to take this opportunity and regain their lost glory. This was the day for Liverpool. At the Anfield Stadium, Liverpool met its first opponent, Ludogorets (the Bulgarian champions), and finished it strong with a score of 2-1. Although Liverpool was the victor of this game, Liverpool exposed a few holes that they need to cover for their next upcoming Champions League games.

No matter what, it’s obvious that every betters, commentators, and fans would all boast that Liverpool would coast this game easily. Ludogorets? Who are they? We got this game easy. With Raheem Sterling and Mario Balotelli spearheading the offense, what’s there to worry about? But again, I have been humbled by the fact that strong teams such as Liverpool can almost be stumbled by “inferior” teams such as Ludogorets. Before the game, I was very confident that Liverpool had this game easy. But I had never felt so wrong in my life after seeing this game. Seriously Liverpool? Is that what you guys really got? If Liverpool plays like this again in their next game, I can honestly say good bye to them.

The first half was completely underwhelming as Liverpool players didn’t really threaten the Bulgarian defense. Liverpool had its first attempt to score as Balotelli broke through the line to take a shot. However, Ludogorets’s goalie, Milan Borjan, successfully blocked the ball. Again, Liverpool had an almost breakthrough right before the half time as Jordan Henderson and Philippe Courtinho passed swiftly left and right and successfully connected the ball to Adam Lallana to finish the work. But, alas. Lallana’s attempt fell short as Ludogorets’s defender got his body between Lallana’s shot and the goal to interrupt that moment. As Liverpool desperately tried to score on the first half, Liverpool had an almost heartbreaking moment when Ludogorets’s right back, Junior Caicara fired his shot from the distance to score for the team. Fortunately, Liverpool’s goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was able to push the ball aside to save Liverpool from the trouble.

The second half wasn’t any different as Liverpool had no clue dealing with Ludogorets’s defense. On 67′, Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool’s manager, subbed in Fabio Borini as Lallana remained highly ineffective (it’s about time… Lallana’s movements were too sloppy as he recently came out from the injury). As Borini stepped in, it seemed like everything was going great. Passes significantly improved and Liverpool seemed much more hungrier than the previous half. Ludogorets had several chances and I would say they had far better opportunities to score until Balotelli spoiled their chances. On 81′, Balotelli was able to connect the ball from the left side and was able to score his first goal in Liverpool. Soonn, Balotelli’s goal was challenged as the Bulgarians were able to find the hole in Liverpool’s defense. Ludogorets’s Cairaca stole the ball from Sterling and initiated the counter attack by passing the ball to Hamza who connected the pass to Dani Abalo. Abalo caught Dejan Lovren (Liverpool’s defender) off guard and easily scored as Mignolet made an ill attempt to save the ball by chasing Abalo.

All Bulgarians were celebrating their equalizer as they thought it was an impossible task. With Liverpool remaining in shock, Ludogorets gained more confidence in pressing Liverpool. But things started to get twisted as their goalie, Milan Borjan, committed a huge error by tackling Javi Manquillo in attempt to save the ball. With the referee handing out Borjan and calling for penalty kick in favor of Liverpool, Steven Gerrard took the penalty and made it in without hesitation.  Within four minutes, the Bulgarian champions blew their miracle. Borjan had to do that on the last minute of the game. Clearly, Ludogorets were discouraged with their results. But Ludogorets proved that they are not an easy team to go down at all.

There are two issues within Liverpool. First of all, Liverpool’s attack is not sharp enough. This game for sure confirmed that Luis Suarez’s void still exists within the team. Liverpool started Balotelli, Sterling, and Courtinho to lead the offense but they weren’t threatening enough to the Bulgarian champions. Although Liverpool controlled the game in ball possession, they failed in creating finishing touches and lacked in creativity within the offense. Besides these three, Liverpool’s second line, consisting with Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson, failed to create plays for the offense. Previously, Suarez successfully backed up Sterling with his creative game plays in the second line. However, Lallana and Henderson’s performances clearly proved that Suarez’s void is difficult to fill in. But one thing we can all look forward to is Gerrard and Balotelli’s combo plays for this season. Yes, they are not stable yet. But, they successfully proved themselves as leaders in this victory. Perhaps if Balotelli really picks up in improving his rad behavior, I believe he has a good future in Liverpool.

Secondly, Liverpool’s defense is not stable enough. During their past four games, Liverpool failed to have a clean sheet as they only managed to have one against Tottenham 3-0. With Liverpool recently buying in Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno, and Javi Manquillo to support Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho, it’s not surprising to see a lack of cohesion within the defense. For this game, Lovren was caught off guard twice and let the Bulgarians score a goal due to his error. I am not saying that Lovren is a bad defender. But he is inconsistent with the quality of his performance. Rodgers did emphasize that everyone in the team has the role of defending. But, no matter what, it’s always going to be the back four who will have to bear more criticisms when Liverpool messes up. Yes, they need more time as they only played five games in this season. But Rodgers must improve the quality of their defense as Liverpool conceded 51 goals during the last season despite the strong offense that they boasted. It will be interesting to see if Liverpool can have a very successful season in both the Champions League and the Premier League.