Champions League - Group B
LiverpoolLiverpool2LudogoretsLudogorets Razgrad1

Liverpool 2-1 Ludogorets Razgrad

By Sam SheringhamBBC Sport at Anfield
Steven Gerrard scores Liverpool's winner from the penalty spot.
Gerrard is Liverpool's record goalscorer in Europe with 40 goals
  • Gerrard wins match with late penalty
  • Balotelli scores first Liverpool goal
  • First Champions League game at Anfield since 2009
  • Liverpool join Real Madrid on three points in Group B

Steven Gerrard's stoppage-time penalty ensured Liverpool marked their return to Champions League football with a victory over Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad.

After a low-key first half, the Reds took the lead in the 82nd minute when Mario Balotelli held off two defenders and poked home his first goal for the club.

Substitute Dani Abalo appeared to have clinched a point for the visitors in the final minute when he rounded Simon Mignolet and scored.

But there was a further twist when debutant goalkeeper Milan Borjan fouled Javier Manquillo in the second minute of stoppage time to give the hosts a spot-kick.

Captain Gerrard found the net in front of the Kop to send the crowd into raptures and give Liverpool a winning start to their Group B campaign.

Champions League: Brendan Rodgers praises 'persistent' Liverpool

It was a fairytale ending reminiscent of the many glorious European nights that Anfield witnessed under Gerard Houllier and Rafael Benitez, who led the Reds to their fifth European Cup triumph in 2005.

Liverpool had reached the Champions League eight times in nine seasons but failed to qualify for five years before Brendan Rodgers led them to a second-place Premier League finish last season.

After a feverish build-up, Liverpool struggled to live up to the occasion in an underwhelming first half.

The hosts did not truly threaten until the 20-minute mark, when Balotelli expertly turned his marker only for his goalbound shot to be blocked, with Adam Lallana's follow-up drawing a save from Borjan.

Ludogorets, showing admirable composure on the ball for a side making their Champions League debut, had an appeal for a penalty turned down when Brazilian midfielder Marcelinho went down under a slight push from defender Dejan Lovren.

Mario Balotelli scores his first Liverpool goal
Mario Balotelli has scored in the Champions League for four different clubs

Moments later, a corner found defender Cosmin Moti at the near post, but he failed to make clean contact with a header.

Liverpool's breakthrough almost arrived before half-time, when the ball was worked swiftly from left to right by Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson to Lallana. But the former Southampton man hesitated before his shot was blocked.

The Premier League side's first clear sight of goal arrived soon after the break. Virgil Misidjan's slip allowed Henderson's pass to slide through to Manquillo but the Spanish right-back's dinked effort looped over the bar.

At the other end, Ludogorets right-back Junior Caicara fired a shot from distance that Mignolet had to dive full length to push aside.

Steven Gerrard on the spot
Gerrard is Liverpool's record goalscorer in Europe with 40 goals in all competitions.
The Liverpool captain is also the club's most prolific penalty taker; his effort against Ludogorets was his 44th successful penalty

And Liverpool had another scare when Gerrard allowed striker Roman Bezjak to drift in behind him from a throw-in and poke a shot, which sailed inches over the corner of post and crossbar.

With the hosts looking increasingly vulnerable, Rodgers brought on Fabio Borini for the ineffective Lallana, and the change almost brought an instant reward as Manquillo's cross picked out the Italian striker, whose header was tipped over by Borjan.

When Moreno sent over a similarly pinpoint delivery from the opposite flank, Henderson's flicked header drifted wide.

In between, Ludogorets wasted a golden opportunity to take the lead. Marcelinho threaded a pass through the legs of Mamadou Sakho to Bezjak, whose shot rolled agonisingly onto the foot of a post.

With the Anfield crowd contemplating the possibility of defeat, Balotelli transformed their mood.

Moreno's cross picked out the Italian - a £16m summer signing from AC Milan - and he controlled the ball and turned in a single movement before steering it into the net with the outside of his right foot.

The Ludogorets riposte was swift and devastating. Younes Hamza's through-ball found his fellow substitute Abalo, whose first touch took the ball past Mignolet before his second found the net.

But just when the visiting fans were celebrating what looked certain to be a point, Borjan's ill-judged lunge and Gerrard's unerring strike gave the home supporters the win they were craving.

Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
Mario Balotelli's goal was his first since scoring for Italy against England in the summer's World Cup finals
Fabio Borini congratulates Javi Manquillo after he is fouled for Liverpool's late penalty
Fabio Borini congratulates Javi Manquillo after he earns Liverpool's late penalty
Milan Borjan despairs
Canada international Milan Borjan made his debut for Ludogorets after signing to solve a goalkeeper crisis
Adam Lallana misses a chance for Liverpool
Summer signing Adam Lallana was starting his second game for Liverpool after recovering from a knee injury
Anfield crowd for Liverpool v Ludogorets
Anfield welcomed back Champions League football for the first time since December 2009

For more pictures of Tuesday's Champions League action, visit our Facebook page.external-link



Formation 4-3-3

  • 22Mignolet
  • 19Manquillo
  • 6Lovren
  • 17Sakho
  • 18Moreno
  • 14Henderson
  • 8Gerrard
  • 10CoutinhoSubstituted forLeivaat 68'minutes
  • 20LallanaSubstituted forBoriniat 67'minutes
  • 45Balotelli
  • 31Sterling


  • 1Jones
  • 3Enrique Sanchez Diaz
  • 4K Touré
  • 9Lambert
  • 21Leiva
  • 29Borini
  • 30Fernández Saez


Formation 4-4-2

  • 26BorjanBooked at 90mins
  • 80Paula JuniorBooked at 54mins
  • 15AleksandrovBooked at 5mins
  • 27Moti
  • 25MinevBooked at 76mins
  • 7Aleksandrov
  • 18DyakovSubstituted forGomes Fonsecaat 85'minutes
  • 12Andrianantenaina
  • 93MisidjanSubstituted forAbalo Paulosat 72'minutes
  • 9BezjakSubstituted forYounesat 86'minutes
  • 84Nascimento da Costa


  • 1Gospodinov
  • 8Gomes Fonseca
  • 16Angulo
  • 17Abalo Paulos
  • 23Zlatinski
  • 88Cristaldo Farias
  • 99Younes
Matej Jug

Match Stats

Home TeamLiverpoolAway TeamLudogorets
Shots on Target

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Liverpool 2, Ludogorets Razgrad 1.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Liverpool 2, Ludogorets Razgrad 1.

  3. Post update

    Corner, Ludogorets Razgrad. Conceded by Javier Manquillo.

  4. Goal!

    Goal! Liverpool 2, Ludogorets Razgrad 1. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom right corner.

  5. Booking

    Milan Borjan (Ludogorets Razgrad) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  6. Post update

    Penalty Liverpool. Javier Manquillo draws a foul in the penalty area.

  7. Post update

    Penalty conceded by Milan Borjan (Ludogorets Razgrad) after a foul in the penalty area.

  8. Goal!

    Goal! Liverpool 1, Ludogorets Razgrad 1. Dani Abalo (Ludogorets Razgrad) right footed shot from the right side of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Hamza Younes with a through ball.

  9. Post update

    Fabio Borini (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the right wing.

  10. Post update

    Foul by Cosmin Moti (Ludogorets Razgrad).

  11. Substitution

    Substitution, Ludogorets Razgrad. Hamza Younes replaces Roman Bezjak.

  12. Post update

    Attempt saved. Mario Balotelli (Liverpool) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Alberto Moreno.

  13. Substitution

    Substitution, Ludogorets Razgrad. Fábio Espinho replaces Svetoslav Dyakov.

  14. Post update

    Attempt missed. Marcelinho (Ludogorets Razgrad) right footed shot from outside the box is too high from a direct free kick.

  15. Post update

    Foul by Lucas Leiva (Liverpool).

  16. Post update

    Marcelinho (Ludogorets Razgrad) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  17. Goal!

    Goal! Liverpool 1, Ludogorets Razgrad 0. Mario Balotelli (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Alberto Moreno with a cross.

  18. Post update

    Attempt missed. Yordan Minev (Ludogorets Razgrad) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Junior Caiçara.

  19. Post update

    Offside, Liverpool. Jordan Henderson tries a through ball, but Mario Balotelli is caught offside.

  20. Post update

    Mario Balotelli (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

As It Stood


3Atl Madrid100123-10
4Malmö FF100102-20


1Real Madrid11005143
4FC Basel100115-40


1Zenit St Petersburg11002023
3B Leverkusen100101-10


1B Dortmund11002023


1CSKA Moscow00000000
2Bayern Munich00000000
3Man City00000000


1Apoel Nicosia00000000


3NK Maribor00000000


1Ath Bilbao00000000
2BATE Borisov00000000
3FC Porto00000000
4Shakhtar Donetsk00000000
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