Ludogorets 2 Liverpool 2 - Liverpool's Last 16 Hopes Go Cold?
Only 1,743 miles and 1 goal separated Liverpool from tonight opponents Ludogorets heading into this game, however on a cold night in Sofia (-1 C). Liverpool’s hopes of making the last 16 of the Champions league took a huge blow as the match ended at the draw. A win against Basel in the final game will see Liverpool qualify however this result will not help the squads low confidence.
After a string of poor performances and injuries to both Sturridge and Balotelli, team rumours leading up to the game were very uninspiring but made interesting viewing to say the least.
6:27pm – “@LFC Confirmed #LFC XI to face Ludogorets: Mignolet, Manquillo, Skrtel, Toure, Johnson, Lucas, Allen, Henderson, Gerrard, Sterling, Lambert.”
First thought? Great, Toure is starting, not sure on Skrtel and Johnson, where is Moreno?? WAIT. IS GERRARD IN THE 10? The line-up certainly suggested that Liverpool were heading into the game in a diamond formation with Sterling partnering Lambert up top.
As the game progressed Liverpool seemed to be transitioning from the 4-4-2 diamond to a flat 4-4-2 and the dreaded 4-2-3-1 with Henderson and Sterling playing in the wide position with Gerrard staying in an more advanced position.
Liverpool started exactly how they finished the game a Palace on Sunday, poorly.
Raheem Sterling swung and missed at a shot, Ludogorets broke, a through ball was blocked by Kolo Toure but only as far as a Ludogorets player who fired what a fairly weak shot from outside the area, however Mignolet flapped and it was a Ludogorets player Dani Abalo who was first to the loose ball to put the home side 1 goal up.
Luckily 5 minutes later and Liverpool were level; a long ball into the box by Lucas Leiva was shouldered by Rickie Lambert before a mix up between Ludogorets defender Moti and Goalkeeper Stoyanov allowed Lambert to get on the end of the 2nd ball to head home from 6 yards.
It was not plain sailing from here, Kolo Toure nearly had another calamitous moment sliding the ball past his own keeper, just skimming the post and heading for a corner. Mignolet then came out flapping from a free kick, Ludogorets failed to capitalise and Liverpool broke, a Henderson cross from the right is met by a Ludogorets defending almost falling at the feet of Rickie Lambert but instead going out for a corner.
News began to surface that Real Madrid had taken the lead at Basel through Cristiano Ronaldo, Liverpool had to push on in the race for progression! Moments later Liverpool were in front Raheem Sterling played a ball across the box to find Jordan Henderson arriving from the right who finishes superbly, Brendan Rodgers‘ reaction told the story of the season so far.
HALF TIME –2-1 to Liverpool
First Half Stats
As the sides came back out for the 2nd half, Moreno, Lovren, Coutinho and Borini were pictured trying to stay warm with a blanket on the bench.
A more much defensive approach for the 2nd half from Liverpool, instead of trying to push forward they decided to consolidate with what they had and try to take the 3 points back to Anfield. A decent approach to a Champions league away game? Yes, if you can defend that is.
Liverpool did create some good chances in the 2nd half, around the 62nd minute Raheem Sterling got himself into the box and whipped the ball across the 6 yard box, Lambert met it with a diving header that was cleared off the line, the ball then fell to Henderson who absolutely ballooned it over the bar, the only saving grace was that the whistle had already gone as Henderson had clashed with the keeper when the ball was played by Sterling.
Liverpool’s best chance of the half fell to Raheem Sterling who was put through one on one against Stoyanov however he hit his shot straight at the keeper, signs of the Raheem Sterling pre-Norwich last season where he didn’t look like he knew how to shoot however Sterling was a menace to Ludogorets all game.
Raheem Sterling was replaced soon after this by Alberto Moreno to sure up Liverpool defence. All this did was pile on more pressure, the last 10 minutes consisted of corner after corner, shot after shot for Ludogorets and eventually, as it always does, the ball found the back of the net from a corner. The corner was met at the near post and diverted in at the back post to stick a knife in the chest of Liverpool’s Champions League hopes. Brendan Rodgers’ face tells the story of the season so far.
FULL TIME Ludogorets 2-2 Liverpool
Full Match Stats
For an audio reaction to the game make sure you tune into the #AIWriters podcast which will be recorded on Thursday 27/11/2014 to be release on Friday 28/11/2014.