It was almost just like the old days as Steven Gerrard scored an added-time winner to get Liverpool’s Champions League return off to a winning start.
The Reds captain, so influential on European nights of the past, stroked home a very late spot-kick to give his team a 2-1 win over spirited Ludogorets.
It usually takes something special to upstage Mario Balotelli, who scored the first goal for the club since his £16million summer transfer from AC Milan, but the Bulgarian minnows almost achieved it when substitute Dani Abalo rolled in a 90th-minute equaliser.
However, when Javier Manquillo was brought down by goalkeeper Milan Borjan, only signed at the weekend because of suspension and injury to Ludogorets’ first two choices, Gerrard assumed the role for which he has become synonymous.
The five-time winners of Europe’s elite club competition had waited five years to be back in the big time but it seemed the fanfare which greeted its arrival at Anfield would be silenced by the visitors.
It seemed, with impeccable timing, Balotelli had chosen the perfect moment to open his account eight minutes from time but there was greater drama to follow.
And while it was not the most convincing of wins it got the Reds off and running, particularly important considering Real Madrid’s comfortable win over Basle in the other game in Group B.
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