Liverpool’s lengthy absence from the UEFA Champions League finally came to an end with the win against Bulgarian side Ludogorets at Anfield. Relatively unknown outside their home country, the Bulgarian side were believed to be the pushovers for the tie. However, it was not to be, as they put up a very tidy performance, nearly gaining a point out of the tie, before Steven Gerrard coolly tucked in the penalty in the extra time. It was a less than convincing performance from the Merseysiders on their return to the tournament. However, the team as well as the manager don’t have a lot of experience in the tournament and it will be far from easy in the days to come.
While the Kop might have been pretty unimpressed by the performance overall, both the young Spanish full-backs caught the attention of most of the Kop. Alberto Moreno’s performances since his arrival has got the fans raving about him and his performance against Ludogorets only gave them more reason to do so.
The Spaniard had a passing accuracy of 90% on the overall through the game, completing 31 out of the 35 passes he attempted in the attacking and the mid third of the pitch. He was quick getting forward and was often looking to cross the ball into the path of Balotelli. He attempted a total of 10 crosses last night, 3 of which were successful. His first few crosses sailed over the defence but thereafter, he kept the Ludogorets defence busy with his constant crossing. He created 5 chances in the 90 minutes, 2 of which were in the form of crosses. His efforts finally paid off as it was his perfect cross that led to the Reds finally breaking the deadlock late into the game.
He registered a single shot in the game, which flew off the mark. Though he was constantly bombing forward, he did not attempt any take-ons through out the game, often running into evident empty spaces on his flank. He did not register any ball recoveries over the 90 minutes. However, we will have to wait for a detailed report from the Anfield Index to know his pressing performance.,
His defensive performance from last night has often been summed in that one crucial tackle he made after Sakho was sold the dummy by Marcelinho. However, his defensive contribution far exceeded that highlight moment. He made 3 very important tackles on the whole, coming out on top in each of them. The pacy youngster was quick to cut off supply, as he effected 2 interceptions apart from blocking a cross through the 90 minutes. He was also called into action on two other occasions where he had to clear the ball out of the dangerous areas.
While it might seem like the Spaniard put up a flawless performance, certain pundits like Jamie Carragher have been critical of the defender being too attack oriented when he should be concentrating on closing the result. The toughest part of being a full-back is often striking the right balance between attack and defence and Moreno has a lot to learn on that front.
The win, however unconvincing, has put Liverpool on track for an exciting season in the European elite competition. With the Reds yet to face the likes of Real Madrid, the excitement in the air is very high. However, it will take more than the laboured performance from last night to leave a mark against better teams and Rodgers will be hoping he can get his squad to perform to the best of their abilities to leave their mark on the games in their quest to qualify from the group stage.