Liverpool escaped an embarrassing return to Champions League football with a last gasp 2-1 victory over Ludogorets at Anfield.
The Bulgarian minnows frustrated the five-times European Champions and looked set for a famous draw before summer signing Mario Balotelli popped up in the 82nd minute for his first Liverpool goal.
Ludogorets then silenced the Anfield crowd with a 91st minute equaliser when Dani Abalo rounded Reds stopper Simon Mignolet and slotted home in front of the euphoric travelling Bulagarian fans.
But Liverpool raced down the other end and earned themselves a penalty when goalkeeper Milan Borjan clipped Javier Manquillio in his own area, and Reds captain Steven Gerrard calmly slotted home from the spot to save Brendan Rodgers’ side’s blushes.
It was similar performance from Liverpool that saw them fall to a 1-0 home defeat to Aston Villa last weekend, which has further strengthened the claims that Liverpool may not be able to replicate their title challenge from last season, as well enjoy a successful run in the Champions League.
So here’s three things we learned from Liverpool’s latest frustrating performance at Anfield…
THEY REALLY DO MISS DANIEL STURRIDGE
The fact Liverpool have lost a Premier League game at home to Villa and then struggled to beat minnows Ludogorets in the Champions League since Daniel Sturridge was injured whilst on England duty suggests Rodgers is struggling to work without him.
He may have Mario Balotelli at his disposal to score the goals in Sturridge’s absence, but even then there’s no real evidence that the Italian can make the exact same impact as the England striker.
There’s also a shift in the way Liverpool line-up when Sturridge is unavailable, and that clearly has a detrimental effect to Liverpool’s hopes of another successful campaign.
Balotelli’s first Liverpool should give him the confidence to go on get more, though, but only time will tell…
ADAM LALLANA HAS BEEN RUSHED INTO ACTION TOO QUICKLY
Lallana’s performances for Southampton over the last few years have no doubt warranted his call up in to the England set-up, but a knee injury during the summer has halted his chances of replicated such efforts for his new club.
Lallana finally made his debut in the loss to Aston Villa last weekend but after his performance against Ludogorets it’s clear to see he is no where near the fitness or pace needed to make the required impact just yet.
Luckily the Liverpool fans realise that and are refusing to get on his back just yet…
COUTINHO LOOKS A SHADOW OF HIS FORMER SELF
Last year, Coutinho was one of Liverpool’s top performers as they went so close to winning their first ever Premier League title. But so far this season the 22-year-old Brazilian has been well off the pace.
He doesn’t appear to be the confident, free-flowing and exciting midfielder Liverpool had the pleasure of enjoying last season. Instead he has been sloppy, reckless and less effective in the middle of the park for Rodgers’ side.