Belfast Telegraph

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers remains upbeat but Mignolet's confidence is a concern

By Rober Jones

Given the history and expectations Liverpool carry with them every time they travel abroad, a draw against the little-known champions of Bulgaria should not have been worthy of too much commemoration.

Nevertheless, as he stood in the corridors of Sofia's national stadium after the worst month of his time as Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers could cling to two things: their fate in the Champions League is still in their own hands

Also, they did not lose - a fifth straight defeat would have been Liverpool's worst run since 1953. Watching from the touchline in below-freezing conditions, Rodgers would have wanted several things but the minimum was to show that his team could compete.

"First, you have to be competitive," he said. "And for whatever reason - the World Cup, player changes, transition, we have not been competitive. We have shown we are ready to compete now."

Tomorrow, they will have to compete against Stoke who will not have to look too far for Liverpool's weak point: an out-of-form goalkeeper in Simon Mignolet.

In the Champions League, Rodgers has made radical changes. However, the one position he cannot readily change is his goalkeeper because Mignolet's deputy, Brad Jones, is not strong enough competition. Arsenal fans are not the only ones wondering if Petr Cech can be persuaded to exchange Chelsea's reserves for something more substantial.

"As a goalkeeper, you have to let these things go," Rodgers said of Mignolet's error. "That goal was a massive setback but we need to keep his confidence high."

Joe Allen, meanwhile, believes the scrappy draw against the Bulgarian minnows can be an unlikely platform on which to rebuild their season.

"There's an element of frustration because we were ahead in the game until so late on," said the Wales international.

"It was disappointing to concede a goal like that but the bigger picture is that our Champions League dream is still alive and still in our hands and that is a big bonus for us.

"There were improvements all round. The commitment was there for everyone to see.

"I thought we had more composure than we have had at times and certainly more self-belief and it is a step in the right direction.

"The only disappointment is that we didn't get all three points.

"The start (to the game) almost summed up how it's been going for us recently but the biggest test for us was (showing) that resolve to come back."

Allen added: "The manager mentioned that it was almost like a fresh start and we see it that way as players.

"It's up to us to turn it around and it is now back to Premier League action at the weekend and we are looking forward to giving everything to get three crucial points."

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