Liverpool 2-1 Ludogorets

Shanks Grandson Christopher William Shankly Carline on Liverpool’s return to the Europe’s elite…..

The return of Champions League football to Anfield saw a spine tingling sense of excitement and anticipation to fans making their way to the ground on Tuesday night.

I have to say that as I made my way up Arkles Lane, seeing the old ground with flood lights beaming across the night sky brought all the memories flooding back, and the anticipation of the good old Champions League anthem booming round the ground was a strange excitement.

In the end, relief was the overwhelming emotion served to many fans, but you know what; who cares. It’s three points on the board and that’s more than any of the other English teams managed on match day 1 of the premier club competition.

Non Liverpool fans will pour scorn on the following; but Ludogorets will surprise many teams this year. They are a very good side. Pace throughout the side, with half a dozen players capable of carrying the ball, and a few tricksters in their to boot, they don’t look out of place at this level. I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if they take points off Basel or even Real Madrid.

And with Liverpool still reeling from a poor home defeat to Villa; it was probably a great time for the Bulgarians to try their hand at claiming our famous and most coveted scalp. It is with that in mind that I think ultimately this was a good result, despite the closeness of margins.

The team is still bedding in with several new personnel and the manager’s point that we are nowhere near up to speed is a fair one. Balotelli is still finding his place in the team and as my blog from the Villa game stated, he still has much work to do on his movement and contribution. That said; he bagged his goal to get him off the hook (just my opinion that) and it was a cool well taken finish which will hopefully do wonders for his confidence and work rate.

Lallana continues to impress me as he works back to fitness. He was the one player I wanted us to go out and sign when last season ended and we duly did so, and I think he will be a huge asset going forward. Coutinho too appeared to have more urgency about him, although unusually so, his decision making and final ball let him down in this game, something that can rarely be levelled at the Brazillian.

One conundrum that continues to weigh on my mind however, is the Gerrard – Henderson situation. Im sure I wont be popular for saying this but it is on my mind so why not. Im not sure they should BOTH play. I think they are too similar at the moment and Im not sure it brings the best value to the team. Certainly at home, I think one should drop to the bench to allow for a more attacking dynamic. For me, that player should be the vice captain (who drops to the bench) and not the captain. Just an opinion but one that has weighed in with me for some time now.

The back four have to be disappointed however with the goal conceded. a slide rule pass many seconds in the making in between centre half and full back is far too easy a way to split a defence at this level, and Lovren and Manquillo must be disappointed with the goal.

The Spanish full back however immediately set about redeeming himself by chasing a dead ball down at the Kop end. Ludogorets goal keeper wont want to see what happened next I’m sure, on many more occasions. To say the penalty was soft is an understatement. Mis-controlling it was bad enough but to then take Manquillo out when he was running into the dead ball line away from goal was ridiculous. That said, happy days for us, and we all know that when the Captain stands behind the ball 12 yards out, he doesn’t miss.

A collective sigh of relief breathed by all but onwards and upwards.

I do have to mention one last thing before I sign off. Im sure it wasn’t just me; but I have to say; the performance of the referee was one of the most inept and shocking performances Ive ever seen. Has this man ever played football at any level, even down the park with his mates when he was a kid? I hope it isn’t the standard we have to look forward to in coming games from UEFA officials.