Mixed night in Europe

Updated: September 16, 2014

It was a mixed night for two of England’s European representatives as the Champions League group stages got under way.

Liverpool struggled to break down a stubborn Ludogorets side and it took an injury-time penalty from Steven Gerrard to save the day, while Arsenal lost 2-0 away in Dortmund.

Anfield welcomed Champions League football back after a five year absence, but it looked like the start of their tilt on a sixth title was going to end in a disappointing draw with the Bulgarians.


Mario Balotelli puts Liverpool in the lead

Despite controlling possession for large parts of the game, Brendan Rodgers’ side, which included England trio Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana, couldn’t carve out any serious chances.

Lallana and Sterling both had sniffs inside the box in a goalless first half, while Henderson and Gerrard couldn’t finish off two second half headers.

But a goal finally arrived with less than ten minutes left when the ball broke kindly for Mario Balotelli to poke home in front of the Kop.

The Italian’s first goal for the Reds looked to have sealed a hard-fought three points, which would have kept them level with holders and Group B favourites Real Madrid – 5-1 winners over Basel.

However, Ludogorets didn’t give up and Dani Abalo capitalised on uncertainty in the Liverpool defence to level in stoppage time.

It wasn’t over though, and when Spaniard Javi Manquillo was taken down inside the area by visiting keeper Milan Borjan, former England skipper Gerrard stepped up to stroke in the winner.

While Liverpool were celebrating, Arsenal come home empty handed after 2013 finalists Borussia Dortmund claimed a 2-0 opening day victory in the week’s first of four England v Germany encounters.


Danny Welbeck in action for the Gunners in Dortmund

A goal either side of the break for Jurgen Klopp’s outfit, first from Ciro Immobile and then Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, sent Dortmund to the top of Group D.

The Gunners started with three England players in their ranks, as Danny Welbeck made his Champions League bow for Arsene Wenger’s men alongside Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was introduced in the second half, but they couldn’t reduce the arrears.

The other game in the group between Galatasary and Anderlecht finished 1-1, so Arsenal will head into matchday two just one point adrift.

Manchester City are in Germany as well for their Group E clash with Bayern Munich on Wednesday night, while Chelsea will also be in action against German opposition as they welcome Schalke to Stamford Bridge.

European football continues on Thursday night in the Europa League as Tottenham Hotspur travel to FK Partizan, and Everton meet another Bundesliga side in the shape of Wolfsburg.