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Tuesday 24 October 2017

Captain Steven Gerrard insists Liverpool's new-look side must learn to crawl before they can walk after scraping past Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets in their Champions League opener.

Captain Steven Gerrard insists Liverpool's new-look side must learn to crawl before they can walk after scraping past Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets in their Champions League opener.

The former England midfielder scored an added-time penalty after Mario Balotelli's first goal for the club in the 82nd minute was cancelled out by substitute Dani Abalo eight minutes later.

After a five-year absence from Europe's premier club competition it was not one of the classic nights at Anfield but Gerrard promised there was better to come.

"We are very relieved. It was very important to start the competition off with maximum points," said Gerrard.

"I don't think it was a very good performance from ourselves but we have managed to take the three points, which is vital.

"I think we will get better as the season progresses.

"We have a lot of new faces trying to find their feet and settle in and there is a lot of expectancy on us because of how well we performed last year but it will take time to get back to that level - hopefully sooner rather than later.

"Sometimes you have to crawl before you can walk."

Gerrard believes Balotelli will go on to score plenty more after converting a smart chance in front of The Kop to open his account following a £16million move from AC Milan.

"I think it will be the first of many," he added.

"I thought he worked his socks off. You look at strikers and sometimes when it is not going their way they sulk but he was relentless and he stayed in there and that one good chance which came his way he took and it was a great finish."

Gerrard also had praise for young full-back Javier Manquillo, on loan from Atletico Madrid, whose run forward drew the foul from goalkeeper Milan Borjan to win the penalty.

"He has done very well since he came in, not just last night, but that is what type of defender he is: front foot, aggressive, very attacking," said Gerrard.

"He got rewarded by being brave and ambitious, even being down that end of the field - a lot of full-backs would have been staying back trying to get a draw out of the game.

"He chased down a lost cause and we got rewarded for it."

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