Jordan Henderson believes Liverpool’s display against Ludogorets Razgrad in Sofia on Wednesday night was an improvement on the team’s recent performances, with positives to bring back to Merseyside.
tHe admitted that the Reds were disappointed to concede in the final minutes of the game, allowing the Bulgarians to clinch a 2-2 draw that nevertheless leaves progress to the next phase in their own hands.
Liverpool fell behind in their penultimate Group B clash at the Vasil Levski National Stadium when Dani Abalo pounced to steer home the opening goal of the game after three minutes.
The Reds’ response was immediate and was brought about almost entirely by the perseverance of Rickie Lambert, who hounded the hosts into a defensive mix-up before nodding home an equaliser.
In the 37th minute, Brendan Rodgers’ charges took the lead when Raheem Sterling steered a pin-point pass in behind the Ludogorets defence and into the path of Henderson as he arrived at the far post to apply the finish.
Georgi Terziev’s late goal left the Reds frustrated; however, the point gained means Liverpool can still qualify for the knockout stages of this year’s tournament if they beat FC Basel at Anfield next month.
“We knew we needed to show character,” Henderson told Sky Sports following the final whistle. “We knew it would be a tough game.
“They are a good team. We found that out in the first game – that they are very good technically. But I thought we showed great character to stay in the game, especially after going 1-0 down very early.
“Rickie did brilliantly for his goal to get us straight back in it and we looked dangerous on the counter-attack. We were more solid, but we’re disappointed to concede at the end.”
The early opening goal came as a result of a drilled effort which Simon Mignolet was unable to hold and Abalo followed up to finish beyond the Belgian. Liverpool were stunned – but only momentarily.
Lambert’s battling nature ensured they were level within five minutes as the local lad snuck in between the Bulgarians’ defensive ranks to head home his first Champions League goal.
Henderson, who struck prior to the interval to hand the Reds a lead in the game, insists his teammates showed tenacity to regain a foothold in the game after falling behind so early on.
“Bravery is about getting on the ball,” he explained. “It’s not just fighting and showing desire to win the game. It’s getting on the ball, having the confidence to get on it even when you’re 1-0 down.
“I felt as though we did that, especially early on. We got on the ball and tried to penetrate in behind and we got our second thanks to Raheem’s great ball across. There were a lot of positives, but we’ve still got a long way to go to get back to where we want to be.”
Lambert meanwhile, who declared himself pleased to have hit his first goal in European competition for the Reds, argued that the draw could prove crucial when Basel visit Anfield on December 9.
Real Madrid secured a 1-0 triumph over the Swiss outfit in Group B’s other fixture on the night, meaning that a win for Rodgers’ side in their final game will see them through to the last 16.
“We wanted the win and we almost got it,” said Lambert. “We’ve got to take heart out of that and it’s upwards now. That’s all we’re thinking of. We’ve got to go for an even better performance on Saturday [against Stoke City].
“It meant a lot. It was my first start in the Champions League so it was brilliant to get off the mark and get us back into the game.
“I thought our performance was a lot better today and that was the main thing. We’re devastated to concede at the end. We knew that if we got a draw here then a win on the last day will get us through.”