Liverpool need to beat FC Basel in their final group game at Anfield in order to reach the last 16 of the Champions League, despite conceding a late equaliser against FC Ludogorets.
The Reds were denied a first win in five matches at the death, but halted a run of four consecutive defeats with a 2-2 draw in Bulgaria to keep their Champions League hopes alive.
Liverpool recovered from falling behind on just three minutes, when Simon Mignolet fumbled a shot to allow Dani Abalo to score. The Reds responded with first half goals from Rickie Lambert and Jordan Henderson, only to be undone by a set piece once again when Georgi Terziev headed in the equaliser on 88 minutes.
The Reds still hold their Champions League destiny in their hands, despite an unconvincing display in Sofia.
Brendan Rodgers brought Lucas Leiva, Kolo Toure and Jordan Henderson into the side following Sunday’s dismal 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace.
Toure was involved in the opener on just three minutes, when his poor block led to a shot from 25 yards that looked fairly routine. But the ball was spilled by Simon Mignolet after a slight bounce, and Abalo ensured the Reds had made the worst possible start by burying the follow-up.
But luckily Brendan Rodgers did not have to wait too long for an equaliser on a night when pressure was high, when Rickie Lambert headed home his first Champions League goal for the club, following hesitation in the Ludogorets box on eight minutes.
Lambert now has two goals from his last two starts, and was involved again, this time in the build up to the Reds second goal. The England striker sent Raheem Sterling away down the left hand side, and the 19-year-old delivered a superb low cross with his left foot to the back post. Jordan Henderson had made the run and finished expertly to put the Reds 2-1 up before half time.
Into the second half, and the Reds looked comfortable enough despite not creating anything clear cut. Raheem Sterling was the man causing the most problems, and his cross to the back post on 65 minutes looked as though it had sealed a Liverpool victory. Rickie Lambert saw his header cleared off the line, whilst Henderson somehow missed the follow up from all of six yards by blazing over. Fortunatley for the vice-captain, the referee had already blown for a foul in the build up.
Sterling then had a chance to seal the points himself, when Steven Gerrard – playing in a more advanced midfield role – played the youngster through with 12 minutes on the clock. Sterling struggled to get the ball out of his feet however, and saw a tame shot from the one-on-one position was saved by the goalkeepers legs.
And the Reds were made to pay for that miss, predictably from a set piece. It is now 13 goals in all competitions the Reds have conceded from set-pieces, after Terziev headed into an all but empty net when substitute Alberto Moreno was beaten to a flick on at the near post from a corner.
It may not have been the win Rodgers had been hoping for to ease the pressure, but the equaliser remained somewhat irrelevant due to the fact the Reds would have needed to beat FC Basel in their final match anyway, due to the Swiss side’s superior goal difference.
And the under-fire Liverpool boss can take positives from a slightly improved performance, perhaps entirely down to the fact that after just one Champions League win this season, the last 16 is just a win at Anfield away. Should be simple enough…right?